The Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs to treat a fatal lung disease, a decision which will bring hope to more than 100,000 Americans who suffer from the disease. However the approval has also started a hot debate over high drug prices
The two drugs which have won the approval of the FDA are- Roche’s Esbriet and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ofev. Both are meant to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition which affects over 100,000 Americans. Many of them are killed in three to five years. The drug does not cure the patient but arrests the decline of lung functions in some patients.
Daniel M. Rose, chief executive of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, an advocacy group that gets some funding from drug companies said, “It’s very exciting to have two approved therapies now for a disease for which there were no approved therapies. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement within the patient community.”
Ofev also known by its generic name, nintedanib, treats idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs.
Meanwhile Roche has said that wholesale price of Esbriet would be about $7,800 a month, or about $94,000 a year. It will be two or three times what the drug sells in Canada and Europe.
Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ofev is to hit the shelves in about ten days though Boehringer executives said have not disclosed the price of Ofev.
Drugs cost more in US in comparison to other industrialized nations. This is because the governments apply pressure or bring them under the ambit of price controls to keep the prices down. However the disparity is much smaller than it is for Esbriet.
Dr. Steven Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefits manager, said “This is yet another example of how we’re all being asked to disproportionately fund world pharmaceutical profits.”
The deadlines for the approval of Esbriet and Ofev were Nov. 23 and Jan. 2 respectively. The fast tracking of the approval process could reflect the need for the drug. Lung transplants can help in this condition but they are rare and nor readily available. The cause of the disease is still not clear and it robs the people of their ability to breathe.