Amgen's Leukemia Rx is Effective & Expensive

Blincyto for acute lymphoblastic leukemia to become available Thursday

(RxWiki News) Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new type of treatment for a severe form of leukemia. That treatment becomes available Thursday, and the manufacturer has revealed how much it will cost.

Amgen announced the new treatment, called Blincyto, would cost about $178,000, Reuters reported. That price would make Blincyto one of the most expensive cancer medications on the market.

Amgen spokesperson Danielle Bertrand said that high price tag is the combined costs of two courses of treatment.

"We believe the price reflects the significant clinical, economic and humanistic value of the product to patients and the health care system, for an ultra-orphan population with a dramatic impact on serious illness," Amgen said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Blincyto was approved Dec. 3 to treat patients with a rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) called Philadelphia chromosome-negative precursor B-cell ALL. If standard treatment fails, ALL patients have few options. Blincyto presents a new option for patients whose initial treatment failed.

Blincyto is a type of immunotherapy. That means it uses certain parts of a person's immune system to fight diseases like cancer. It is the first FDA-approved treatment that uses the body's T-cells, a type of white blood cell, to destroy leukemia cells.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that just over 6,000 Americans will be diagnosed with ALL in 2014, and nearly half of those diagnoses will be among children.

Review Date: 
December 17, 2014