Everyone understands that the cost of many drugs has risen to atmospheric levels. The current levels have the potential to bankrupt our healthcare system in short order (see: How Do We Deal With Rising Drug Costs?). Here is a quote from an article proposing some ways for addressing this problem:
According to a recent report by federal health officials, prescription-drug spending rose 12.6% in 2014, the latest year for which data are available, and it is expected to rise 7.3% a year through 2018. Big drug-price increases have triggered congressional investigations, criticism from both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, and exploration of potential remedies.
I have been noticing numerous advertisements on MSNBC lately for Stellara. It's a prescription monoclonal antibody that targets interleukin 12 and interleukin 23 and is manufactured by Jannsen Pharmaceutical and approved to treat adults 18 years and older with moderate or severe plaque psoriasis that involves large areas or many areas of their body. It's administered as a 45 mg or 90 mg injection under the skin as directed by a physician at weeks 0, 4, and every 12 weeks thereafter. I thought that it might be of interest to the readers of Lab Soft News to research the cost of this drug.
As a quick aside, I have previously posted a number of notes about direct-to-consumer drug advertising (DTC) advertisements (see: Effectiveness of "Direct-to-Consumer" Drug Advertisements; It's Time for the FDA to Prohibit Direct-to-Consumer Advertising by Pharmaceutical Companies; Pressure Mounting to Ban Pharmaceutical Direct-to-Consumer Ads). I personally believe that such advertisements should be banned. DTC television ads are a pure marketing ploy to convince consumers to request treatment by their physicians, often inappropriately. I don't think that they contribute to healthcare consumer well-being.
Spurred on by these DTC adds, I was curious about the cost of Stellara and discovered a web site, GoodRx that provides information about the cost of drugs. Here's a cut-and-past from this web site about its purpose:
Drug prices vary wildly between pharmacies. GoodRx finds the lowest prices and discounts....Collect and compare prices for every FDA-approved prescription drug at more than 70,000 US pharmacies....Show the lowest price at each pharmacy near you.
According to Good Rx, the retail cost of one syringe of 45 mg. of the drug varies from $8,812 to $9,399. The cost of the drug for about the first year, including, the two loading doses, would be about $54,000. Plaque psoriasis is a severely disfiguring disease. I am not suggesting here that it should not be treated. My only point is that the retail cost for this monoclonal antibody is beyond the capacity of consumers to pay for it without insurance. Unfortunately, I do not believe that we will see any legislation in the near future to curb drug costs.
One short term solution to the high cost of drugs like Stellara might be the emergence of biosimilars. Biosimilars are defined as: a biological product that is approved based on a showing that it is highly similar to an FDA-approved biological product, known as a reference product, and has no clinically meaningful differences in terms of safety and effectiveness from the reference product (see: Information on Biosimilars). At least for monoclonal drugs, biosimilars may introduce more competition into the marketplace.