The price of Seattle Genetics Inc's blood cancer drug Adcetris could top $100,000 for a course of treatment, becoming the latest cancer medicine to come at a high cost.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday gave its nod to Adcetris, the first drug specifically indicated for anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) and the first one approved for Hodgkin's lymphoma since 1977.
Seattle Genetics Monday said the drug will cost $4,500 per vial. In its clinical trials, the company said, patients on average received three vials per dose and between seven and nine doses per treatment.
The total price would then generally vary from $94,500 to $121,500 per patient, within Wall Street's expected range.
"Seattle Genetics' decision to price Adcetris north of $100,000 seems to be causing some concern in the investment community following the recent failure of Dendreon's Provenge to live to up to sales expectations," said Morningstar Inc analyst Lauren Migliore.
Adcetris is the latest cancer drug to hit the market with a hefty price tag to the discontent of patient groups.
Earlier this month, Dendreon Corp lost two-thirds of its market value when it could not deliver on promised sales of its prostate cancer vaccine Provenge, which costs about $93,000 per course, as doctors weren't confident enough about getting reimbursed.
"I think you get a reason for pushback (against highly-priced cancer drugs) because many of these cancer drugs are really not that effective, but in this case I think it's one of the most effective drugs out there," Leerink Swann analyst Howard Liang said of Adcetris.
"I would think that the pricing is high but it's not outrageous compared to other cancer drugs."
In March, U.S. regulators approved Bristol Myers Squibb Co's Yervoy for patients with advanced melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. A course of treatment with Yervoy costs about $120,000.
Earlier in August the FDA approved another melanoma drug, Zelboraf by Roche Holding, which costs about $56,400 for a six-month course of treatment.
"Life science companies are aware of the debt and deficit situation in Washington, D.C., and that indirectly limiting Medicare and Medicaid drug prices could be on the horizon," said Ipsita Smolinski, senior health policy analyst at Capitol Street.
For Adcetris, however, the patient population is generally younger and so more likely to rely on private insurance than federal programs, making the pricetag less controversial, analysts said.
About 9,000 Americans a year are diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and 3,000 with ALCL.