How Much Is a Miracle Worth?

Issue 04-10-17   |   Reviewer:   James Richardson, Ph.D.


Spark Therapeutics Inc. has spent about $400 million to develop a gene therapy to cure a rare form of child blindness. Now Spark must decide how to price it.

Pharmaceutical firms are coming up with one-time cures for illnesses that used to be treated as chronic conditions. But insurers are grappling with paying huge one-time costs.

Gilead Sciences Inc. charges $84,000 for its hepatitis C cure, which most agree is a deal compared to chronic treatment costs. Still, when many of the 3 million Americans with hepatitis C wanted the cure, the total cost to insurers was staggering. Gilead became a target of widespread criticism for high drug prices, including congressional scrutiny.

Spark is studying court awards for damages involving blindness to put a price on sight. Researchers and policy analysts are investigating alternative ways to finance drug development and treatments.

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