It’s hard to know how Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan kept a straight face when he announced that the company’s new gene therapy to treat spinal muscular atrophy would be “far lower” than the $4 million to $5 million that it currently costs to treat the system.
The company is waiting for U.S. regulators to approve the drug before it announces the price, but Novartis has previously said the one-time treatment could be in the $1.5 million to $5 million range.
The drug is a potential long-term solution for the rare disease that is the leading genetic cause of death in infants.
Vas Narasimhan told reporters:
“We won’t be announcing the price until we get the approval. But our overall goal is to be at a fraction of what is the current standard of care, and the current standard of care for treating these patients is $4 million to $5 million over 10 years.”
The price tag for current treatment means that anything less than that is considered “cost effective,” but that’s probably not how parents will see it. By that logic, any new drug that combats a disease that currently has no treatment would be worth everything you own, because who wouldn’t give that for their child?
Pharmaceutical companies must be paid for their R&D efforts, and they aren’t non-profits, but clearly a common sense approach to drug prices still eludes us.