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Novartis price dilemma over $21,000 drug | The Austrailian

Novartis recently discovered that a drug it sells for a group of very rare diseases could be used to treat a much more common ailment. There is just one problem: its $US16,000-per-dose ($A21,000) price tag.

The drug, called ACZ885, is already sold under the brand name Ilaris for certain rare inflammatory disorders affecting a very small number of people. But a recent clinical trial suggests it could also reduce the risk of serious complications like strokes in people who have suffered a heart attack.

If the drug does pan out with regulators, Novartis would have to drastically cut its price to make it competitive with other cardiovascular drugs. That would mean jettisoning a small, but reliable, revenue stream on an uncertain bet that the drug could become a top seller as a cardiovascular medicine.

“They’ve got a bit of a puzzle on their hands,” said Bernard Munos, a senior fellow at non-profit Faster Cures who previously worked at Eli Lilly & Co.

A Novartis spokesman said it is too early to discuss its pricing strategy.

“We will continue to fully analyse the data, plan to discuss these with regulatory agencies and determine how it would fit into clinical practice,” he said.

Rare-disease, or orphan, drugs can command sky-high prices because they are typically the only treatment option available. The small number of patients also limits the overall bill to the healthcare system.

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Novartis price dilemma over $21,000 drug.