A recent clinical trial showed that a drug used for a small coterie of patients suffering from rare inflammatory disorders can reduce the risks of serious complications in people who have suffered a heart attack.

The drug, called ACZ885 (brand name Ilaris), is manufactured by Novartis, which now faces a dilemma, reports the Wall Street Journal. It costs $16,000 per dose. “If the drug does pan out with regulators, Novartis would have to drastically cut its price to make it competitive with other cardiovascular drugs,” the newspaper reports. “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.”

It’s a pickle, as Novartis knows. A company spokesperson tells the WSJ: “We will continue to fully analyze the data, plan to discuss these with regulatory agencies and determine how it would fit into clinical practice.”

Just about anything anyone wants to know about orphan drugs and how they affect the insurance industry can be found in the June issue of Managed Care here.

Novartis made about $288 million last year selling Ilaris. It could possibly make $3.6 billion selling to heart attack patients, even if it greatly reduced the price. “If approved for use in patients recovering from a heart attack, ACZ885’s potential market would skyrocket: around 615,000 people in the U.S. survive a heart attack every year, according to the American Heart Association,” the WSJ reports. “Novartis estimates that the drug, which helps patients who also suffer from inflammation in the arteries, could be suitable in around 40% of those cases.”

Source: Wall Street Journal

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