New Therapy Costs

Anchor lead: As unique therapies are developed, how do we allocate resources to pay for them? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Genetic techniques may soon enable many with sickle cell disease to be cured, but these treatments are very expensive. Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins, says one factor in their price is the huge amount of research and development that’s needed, and another is the relatively small size of the group who may need such an intervention.

Kahn: Among the features that are making these things even more expensive is that the population who could benefit from them is increasingly smaller. So these are therapies that can be used by fewer and fewer people. It’s great for the people who had what we used to think of as orphan diseases but that means there are just fewer people to spread the cost among and in some of these cases there are actually individualized therapies so that has to be a custom drug. A custom drug by definition by definition costs more money than one that can be used by millions of people.  :31

Kahn says medical resources are limited so this issue needs careful scrutiny. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.