Mer­ck dis­card jumps straight to the top of the chart of the most ex­pen­sive drugs in the US at $1M-plus

Back late last fall, when Eiger Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $EIGR com­plet­ed its vic­to­ry lap with an old Mer­ck dis­card it had de­vel­oped for rare cas­es of prog­e­ria, the com­pa­ny told re­porters that it was think­ing of pric­ing the new­ly dubbed Zok­in­vy at the usu­al rate re­served for ul­tra rare dis­eases. Mer­ck aban­doned the drug years ago af­ter giv­ing up on a can­cer in­di­ca­tion, and let Eiger have it for Prog­e­ria sev­er­al years ago with­out tack­ing on any mile­stones in the deal.

It turns out, the small cap play­er may have gone one or two steps past the usu­al point, though.

GoodRx just came out with their new top 10 list of the most ex­pen­sive drugs in the US. And Zok­in­vy makes the list as the new num­ber 2 ther­a­py with an av­er­age an­nu­al cost of $1,032,480.

Right be­hind it is the sec­ond new en­try on the list: Danyelza, the new drug from Y-mAbs Ther­a­peu­tics that weighs in just un­der 7 fig­ures, at $977,664. That drug is ap­proved as a com­bi­na­tion treat­ment for high-risk cas­es of neu­rob­las­toma. A group of ex-Gen­mab ex­ecs li­censed this in when they grabbed a pair of drugs from Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing.

No­var­tis holds on to the num­ber 1 spot, way out front with their SMA ther­a­py Zol­gens­ma, just now be­ing cleared in the UK at a dis­count price. In the US, the drug sells for $2.1 mil­lion, and can be cu­ra­tive if the dis­ease is caught ear­ly enough.

Phar­ma de­fend­ers are quick to point out that the cost of the drug still qual­i­fies as a big saver com­pared to the cost of tend­ing to these in­fant pa­tients suf­fer­ing from a ter­ri­ble and lethal dis­ease. Pay­ers who have a hard time cov­er­ing the cost, notes GoodRx, can pay over­time in 5 an­nu­al in­stall­ments of $425,000.

What­ev­er the ar­gu­ments, though, price tags like these tend to at­tract con­sid­er­able out­rage among the peo­ple who face out-of-pock­et drug costs that can rou­tine­ly force them off their med­ica­tion sched­ule. And that makes the top 10 price list of in­ter­est to every­one in the in­dus­try, par­tic­u­lar­ly as small out­fits like Eiger and Y-mAbs join the ma­jor play­ers on the pricey ros­ter.

Of the oth­er 7 drugs on the list, 4 have hiked the price.

  • Myalept from Aege­ri­on jumped from $71,306 to $74,159 per month — an an­nu­al cost weigh­ing in at $889,904. The ther­a­py is used to treat lep­tin de­fi­cien­cy.
  • Brineu­ra, which treats one form of Bat­ten dis­ease, rose 2.14%, re­ports GoodRx, to $730,340 a year. That breaks down to 300 mg every 2 weeks.
  • The price of Am­gen’s Blin­cy­to, num­ber 8 on the list, was hiked by 5.89% to $712,672.
  • Hori­zon Ther­a­peu­tics, which rou­tine­ly makes an ap­pear­ance in the ul­tra-ex­pen­sive list, in­creased the price of Rav­ic­ti 4.8% to $695,970. That’s num­ber 9.

At num­ber 10 we have Alex­ion’s Soliris — long the one-time reign­ing champ in the most-ex­pen­sive-drugs cat­e­go­ry. It now sells for $678,392 as Alex­ion makes way for a suc­ces­sor ther­a­py — and As­traZeneca looks to take over the fran­chise once it com­pletes a $39 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion.

That leaves Lux­tur­na, a break­through eye gene ther­a­py ac­quired by Roche which sells for $850,000 for a pair of eyes — or $425,000 each. Folo­tyn for a rare blood can­cer costs $793,870.

Here’s the straight list from GoodRx, ranked 1 through 10.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

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The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

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Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

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Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

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Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images)

Phar­ma-friend­ly sen­a­tor calls on FDA for a third time to show patent pro­tec­tions should­n't be blamed for high drug prices

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis made a name for himself in the 2020 election cycle as the darling of the pharma industry, accepting hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions, even from the likes of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Those contributions have led Tillis to attempt to re-write patent laws in pharma’s favor, a move which failed to gain steam in 2019, and request for a third time since January that the FDA should help stop “the false narrative that patent protections are to blame for high drug prices.”

EMA signs off on 3 drugs re­cent­ly re­ject­ed by FDA, in­clud­ing Bio­Mar­in's new he­mo­phil­ia gene ther­a­py

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In a major move, CHMP offered a thumbs-up to a conditional marketing authorization for the first gene therapy to treat severe hemophilia A, although the agency cautioned that it’s so far unknown how long the effects of infusion will last.

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Joe Papa (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Joe Pa­pa re­signs as chair of Bausch Health as bil­lion­aire John Paul­son takes over

Joe Papa, chair of Bausch Health, officially resigned on Thursday and the board appointed billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson as the new chair, effective immediately.

The specialty pharma company sought to make clear that Papa’s abrupt departure “was not due to any dispute or disagreement with the Company, its management or the Board on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.”

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When will the FDA re­scind a break­through des­ig­na­tion? New draft guid­ance spells out the com­pli­cat­ed de­tails

Although it’s exceedingly rare for the FDA to rescind a breakthrough designation once it’s granted, there has been a recent uptick — as in 2020 and 2021 combined, the agency rescinded 17 BTDs, compared to just 18 rescinded from 2015 to 2019 combined.

Protagonist Therapeutics saw this reality up close and personal in April after a clinical hold lifted on its experimental blood cancer drug, as the company revealed that the FDA sought to revoke the BTD. The decision, Protagonist says, stems from “observed malignancies” related to the hold, initially imposed in September 2021.

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