CHESTIRE, CT, USA — Soliris, a drug made by Alexion Pharmaceuticals, which is given intravenously to treat a rare disorder in which the immune system destroys red blood cells at night, costs $409,500 a year -setting the world record for the Most expensive medicine.
The disorder, paroxysymal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), hits 8,000 Americans. Patients do not have to dig that deep to pay for the drugs. Insurance covers most of the costs – and there is help with high co-payments or for those with no insurance.
Alexion spokesman Irving Adler said the high price of Soliris reflects several factors, “including an $800 million investment to develop the drug,” as well as a 15-year investment of time.
In March 2007, Soliris was approved by the FDA for the treatment of the blood disease paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, or PNH. In June 2007, the European Commission approved the drug for PNH patients in 29 countries.
Last year Soliris sales were $295 million. Since Alexion started selling Soliris two years ago, its stock price is up 130%.
Three other drugs cost more than $350,000 per year.
Shire Pharmaceuticals’ ( SHPGY) Elaprase ($375,000 per year) treats an ultra-rare metabolic disorder called Hunter’s syndrome.
Just 500 Americans suffer from the disease, which causes infections, breathing problems and brain damage. Last year domestic sales of Elaprase were $353 million.
Naglazyme from BioMarin Pharmaceuticals treats another rare metabolic disorder and costs $365,000 a year, according to investment bank Robert W. Baird.
Viropharma predicts that sales of its Cinryze, a treatment to prevent a dangerous swelling of the face, will increase from $95 million last year to $350 million several years from now. The drug costs an estimated $350,000 a year.