Video: Seattle Genetics CEO Makes the Case for a $100K Cancer Drug

8/22/11Follow @xconomy

Seattle Genetics is making news all over the Web today, in the first full business day since it won FDA approval for its new targeted antibody drug for rare lymphomas.

While the drug won FDA approval a little bit earlier than expected, the company kept everyone in suspense until today on one critical fact—how much the drug is going to cost. The company announced earlier today that it will charge $13,500 for each dose of brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris) for patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

What does that mean? The drug is given as an intravenous infusion once every three weeks, for about 30 minutes. Experience from clinical trials says patients got between 7-9 infusions. If you estimate the average patient gets eight infusions, it will cost $108,000 per patient. If you estimate that patients will get the maximum of 16 infusions as outlined under the FDA prescribing information, then the price jumps to $216,000 per patient. The company says it doesn’t know exactly how many infusions patients will get in real-world experience.

There is a ton of debate out there in healthcare circles about the cost/benefit ratios of cancer drugs, as anybody knows if they’ve been following the Dendreon saga, and the stories about Genentech’s bevacizumab (Avastin) for breast cancer. So Seattle Genetics is wading into some sensitive territory here.

I came out in support of the six-figure price tag for the Seattle Genetics drug in today’s BioBeat column. Over at Pharmalot, veteran industry writer Ed Silverman is polling readers about whether this is an appropriate price. Based on the assumption that patients will get about eight infusions, Sally Church at the Pharma Strategy Blog points out that the Seattle Genetics drug costs less than the $120,000 that Bristol-Myers Squibb is charging for its new melanoma drug, ipilimumab (Yervoy). Brett Chase over at Minyanville notes that the price may make some investors nervous about Seattle Genetics running into trouble with insurers, like Dendreon (NASDAQ: DNDN).

CEO Clay Siegall had to see all the questions coming about price, and naturally, this was a main theme the folks at CNBC asked him about when he appeared on the financial TV network this morning. Still, Siegall looked a little bit nervous when asked about how he can justify the high price of the new drug, but he has been consistent that the price is based on the value the drug is bringing to patients.

To catch Siegall’s CNBC appearance from this morning, check out the video below. And if you’ve got your own views on the price of this new product, please leave a comment on this story below, or send me a note at ltimmerman@xconomy.com

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