Typically, a cure for blindness would be cause for celebration. But unfortunately the medical device and pharmaceutical sectors of manufacturing work a little differently.
Philadelphia-based Spark Therapeutics received FDA approval for Luxturna in December. Luxturna is a one-time treatment for a form of mutation-associated retinal dystrophy. This inherited mutation specifically effects a gene called RPE65, and results in blindness.
Luxturna is the first and only approved treatment for this disease, but it carries a price tag of $425,000 … per eye. The price, which industry analysts actually agree is pretty reasonable, stems from the fact that there are less than 2,000 potential patients in the U.S.
Also, because it’s a one-time treatment, Spark lacks the ability to spread payments out throughout the use of the drug or course of the treatment.
To help cover a procedure that could cost close to $1M once doctor and hospital fees are included, Spark is rolling out several programs to spread payments out over several years.
But what is perhaps most unique, is that they’re also promising rebates if the benefits of the treatment wane with time.
For example, one insurance company is working with Spark on a deal that will provide full coverage of the treatment, but if patients don’t get an immediate benefit, which is measured in 30-day increments, Spark will refund some of cost.
While it would be easy to initially chastise Spark for the high price of its new drug, the cost of Luxturna could help the company with three other drugs currently in development, one of which could be a groundbreaking treatment for hemophilia.