Some believe it’s not possible to put a price tag on human life. However, that moral standard does not appear to apply to Gilead, the pharmaceutical company that just got FDA approval to bring a new, potentially lifesaving cancer treatment to market. But there’s a catch; patients will need $373,000 to get it.
The drug is called Yescarta and it’s part of a new class of drugs that use gene therapy to fight specific cancer cells. In this case, those cells are large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which kills about 20,000 people each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Reuters reports that sales of Yescarta “could generate sales of up to $250 million in 2018.”
While no one denies any company’s right to make a profit, Big Pharma is increasingly coming under fire for price gouging with potentially lifesaving drugs.
“The United States is one of the only nations in the world that does not regulate drug prices,” A.Gordon Smith wrote in Harvard Business Review.
That fact makes it easy to see why healthcare in America is a privilege reserved only for the wealthy or those with generous insurance plans. It therefore seems unfair, and arguably immoral, to limit access to this truly remarkable breakthrough in science.
From the New York Times:
“The results are pretty remarkable,” said Dr. Frederick L. Locke, a specialist in blood cancers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, and a leader of a study of the new treatment. “We’re excited. We think there are many patients who may need this therapy.” He added, “These patients don’t have other options.”
Not having any ‘other options’ adds Yescarta to the list of drugs that do indeed put a price tag on human life. In this case, it’s $373,000.