The prices of prescription drugs in the US and many other countries continue to skyrocket. President Donald Trump has vowed to bring down the prices Americans pay for prescription drugs, but it’s not going to be easy. Back in 2017, Trump had accused the US pharmaceutical industry of “getting away with murder” with high prices. Here we take a look at the ten most expensive prescription drugs in the world.
These are the most expensive prescription drugs on the planet
The global prescription drug industry is estimated to be worth $1.3 trillion a year. Most individuals don’t pay for drugs out of their own pocket, thanks to insurance. But there is a large number of people who don’t have insurance coverage. Many insurers don’t cover a significant portion of the life-saving medications, leaving the affected individuals and their families to take the financial burden upon themselves.
It’s not the antibiotics or pain relievers that rank among the most expensive prescription drugs. The specialty or orphan drugs that are used to treat rare diseases are the ones that can suck up all the money of the patients and their families. The prices of drugs also vary depending on your insurance coverage.
Pharmaceutical companies that spend years or decades developing a drug want to recover their R&D costs and earn a healthy profit. And they have to do it before the patent expires and generic versions flood the market. There are many other factors influencing the prices of drugs. This list of the most expensive drugs is based on data from Drugs.com and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).
Ilaris is developed by Novartis for the treatment of Periodic Fever Syndromes, a set of rare autoimmune disorders caused by the mutation in certain genes. The patients of Periodic Fever Syndromes suffer from intense fever and inflammation without any infection. The drug has also received regulatory approval for the treatment of Sudden Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (SJIA) in children aging 2 years or older. According to AHIP, the per-patient annual cost of Ilaris could go as high as $379,000 to $462,000.
The price of Demser varies heavily depending on whether you are getting it from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) or purchasing it at the Average Wholesale Price (AWP). Its cost ranges from $96,000 to $472,000 per patient per year. Developed by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Demser is used for chronic treatment of patients suffering from malignant pheochromocytoma. Pheochromocytoma is an adrenal gland tumor that leads to excessive production of chemicals like epinephrine and norepinephrine that increase the blood pressure.
Developed by Allos Therapeutics and approved by the US FDA in 2009, Folotyn is used to treat the refractory peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL), a rare form of cancer that affects about 10,000 people in the US every year. It is prescribed as a last resort treatment, but it has not been demonstrated to extend life for long. Folotyn costs between $345,000 and $500,000 per patient.
Developed by Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Soliris was considered the world’s most expensive prescription drug. But the reality is that there are tons of other medications with even higher price tags. Soliris remains one of the most expensive prescription drugs, though. Its annual cost per patient ranges between $432,000 and $542,000. It is used to treat paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and another chronic blood disease called atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS).
Actimmune from Horizon Pharma is used to boost the immune system in chronic granulomatous disease, which is a rare genetic disorder that weakens the immune system. According to the National Institute of Health, the disease affects one in 200,000 people. It’s also prescribed to treat life-threatening osteopetrosis, the formation of abnormally thick bones. As per AHIP, it costs between $244,000 and $572,000 per patient. The drug is used by fewer than 500 people living with these two diseases.
Developed and marketed by Genzyme, Lumizyme is a lysosomal glycogen-specific enzyme. It could set patients back by $524,000 to $626,000 per year. It costs $800 per vial and a patient needs up to 56 vials per month. Lumizyme is used to treat Pompe disease, in which excess glycogen causes muscles to weaken, affecting critical organs such as the liver, nervous system, and the heart. It was approved by the FDA in 2014.
Carbaglu is used to treat a rare disease where the lack of a liver enzyme causes hyperammonemia, a condition of high ammonia buildup in the blood. It is administered orally. The drug costs $419,000 to $790,000 per patient per year. The problem is that the treatment could last several years, driving patients and their families bankrupt. In clinical trials, 23 patients had received Carbaglu treatment for a median of 7.9 years!
Brineura, marketed by BioMarin Pharmaceutical, is an enzyme replacement treatment for a rare form of Batten disease. It was approved by the US FDA only a couple of years ago. It’s the first drug in the market to reduce the symptoms of the late infantile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis type-2 (CLN2) disease, a form of Batten disease, in children aging 3 years or older. The CLN2 disease affects the nervous system and begins when children are only 2-4 years old. The drug costs $700,000 per patient per year.
Ravicti, an oral liquid, is marketed by Horizon Pharma. It prevents the buildup of dangerous ammonia in blood in patients of urea cycle disorder. A toxic buildup of ammonia in blood could lead to coma, brain damage, and death. The urea cycle disorder affects about 2,100 people every year in the US, according to Drugs.com. The drug costs $793,000 per patient per year.
Glybera is by far the world’s most expensive prescription drug. Developed and marketed by UniQure, it costs more than $1.2 million per patient. However, it’s not approved for sale in the United States. The medication is used to treat familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency in European markets. The familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency affects only about 1,200 people in Europe, which means the medication doesn’t have a huge demand.
If you exclude Glybera because it’s not available in the US, then Luxturna is the most expensive prescription medication with a price tag of $850,000. Luxturna is administered in a single dose and was developed by Spark Therapeutics. It inserts a functioning copy of a missing gene directly in the patient’s eye to produce a protein necessary for sight.