I guess I'd call myself quietly disappointed and a little fatigued from this news. A Novartis AG company spokesperson has communicated to Bloomberg that their oral MS treatment, Gilenya (aka fingolimod), was going to be priced at $4,000 per month. (Read the Bloomberg article here: Novartis Gilenya MS Pill to Cost $48,000 a Year).
In my blog from a couple of days ago, Gilenya (aka Fingolimod): When and How Much?, I was not as wildly enthusiastic as I had expected to be at the imminent arrival to market of an oral MS drug. When I heard about the trials 2.5 years ago, I thought that the approval of an oral drug would be a banner day and that people with MS would fling their syringes down en masse and celebrate as one big community.
I'm not feeling it. Of course, I do understand that for some people, this might be the answer - I am thrilled that there is something coming along to fill this gap for those who cannot tolerate the CRABs or Tysabri, for whom they have failed, or who cannot bear to inject themselves. I truly hope Gilenya is your solution.
I also very much understand that it costs money to develop and make these drugs. I do. I want Novartis investors to be happy and I always expected that this pill would cost more than aspirin. However, this statement from the Bloomberg article just struck me as a little - I'm searching for the word here...okay, got it - ballsy: "Gilenya pricing is based on the value it will deliver patients, the scientific innovation it represents and our investment in studies to support the product," Althoff said.
I guess I'll leave it at that. You know, before I was diagnosed with MS, way back in the early 1990s, I was involved in HIV/AIDS prevention and activism, both in the US and internationally. Not being HIV-infected myself, I watched as the rage and frustration poured forth from people who needed drugs that were expensive and unavailable. Some of the prices did seem outrageous and on more than one occasion, I joined in and screamed, "Shame!" Maybe I had more energy back then. I'm not ready to start screaming, but I do feel a deep sadness for our community, especially those of you who were really waiting for this drug with excitement and hope.
Of course, Novartis has mentioned that there will be patient assistance programs available, and maybe they are hugely generous and wanting to get this drug to as many people as possible who could really benefit from it. That would be awesome. We'll see. What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.