In December, the FDA approved a treatment from the pharmaceutical company Spark Therapeutics to treat a rare form of inherited vision loss. And January 3rd, the company put a price tag on the groundbreaking treatment. The Luxturna gene therapy will cost $850,000 — or $425,000 per eye.
Originally, the price of the treatment was estimated at $1 million. But even with the slightly lower cost, Luxturna is still one of the priciest treatments in the world.
Luxturna is the first gene therapy approved in the U.S. for an inherited disease, and patients only need to receive the treatment one time. The therapy was created to treat patients with retinal dystrophy, an inherited form of vision loss that causes the destruction of retinal cells. Luxturna works by injecting each eye with a normal copy of the gene responsible for vision loss. Retinal dystrophy affects between 1,000 and 2,000 Americans.
Spark Therapeutics announced that it is planning several different payment options for patients. The company said it was negotiating with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow people to pay in installments. And the company has also agreed to donate to the nonprofit health services company Harvard Pilgrim if patients’ eyesight does not improve after treatment.
But health care is notoriously expensive in the U.S., and some feel that Luxturna’s cost contributes to the problem.
David Mitchell, the founder of the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs, wrote a statement in which he argued that $850,000 is not a fair price for Luxturna.
Twitter users expressed dismay at the cost of the drug as well.
Medical advancements over the past decade have been amazing, and Luxturna has the potential to benefit thousands of people. But the reality is that most people probably won’t be able to afford this treatment, meaning it will only be accessible to the incredibly wealthy. And for people who can’t access health insurance, regular trips to the doctor are difficult to afford, let alone life-altering medications like Luxturna. We urge pharmaceutical companies to make groundbreaking treatments available for all people — not just the 1 percent.