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The Feverish Pricing of MS Treatments

Towards the end of March, the FDA approved two new treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS): Mayzent (siponimod) and Mavenclad (cladribine). Both represent important breakthroughs for people with certain types of MS. But they come at a cost.

The wholesale acquisition cost of Mayzent is $88,500 per year. Mavenclad is $99,500 annually. Even for those with insurance, copayments of up to 28-30% mean that out of pocket costs will be thousands of dollars per month.

Drug treatments for MS have been climbing an expensive staircase for a number of years. Take the first disease-modifying agent approved, interferonB (Betaseron) as an example. In 1993, it cost $11, 532 per year. By 2013 this had risen to $61,529, and today’s estimate is close to $66,000. Prices of MS treatments have skyrocketed by as much as 36% year on year, according to one study. Compare that to the average overall prescription drug inflation rate of 3% to 5% annually, and something screams unfair.

Because what good is a drug that few people can afford? And the nature of MS requires that disease-modifying treatments be started as soon as possible to ensure the best chance of forestalling relapses. For a disease with no cure, characterized by its on-again, off-again nature, this puts people with MS in the distressing position of having to determine just how much their extra life is worth.

It is very hard to justify what people with MS have to pay for their medications, even taking into account the cost of bringing a new drug to market. There are at least a million other Americans who would agree.

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