Amgen's New Leukemia Treatment Has a Hefty Price Tag

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Priced at approximately $178,000 for 2 courses of treatment, Blincyto will be one of the most expensive cancer medications on the market.

Priced at approximately $178,000 for 2 courses of treatment, Amgen's new leukemia drug, blinatumomab (Blincyto), will be one of the most expensive cancer medications on the market.

"We believe the price reflects the significant clinical, economic, and humanistic value of the product to patients and the health care system, for an ultra-orphan population with a dramatic impact on serious illness," an Amgen spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Blincyto is a bispecific antibody in which 1 arm of the antibody grasps the cancer cell, while the other grabs hold of a T-cell, allowing the T-cell to bind to and kill the cancer cell.

In a clinical trial, 32% of patients achieved complete remission for nearly 7 months after receiving the drug. This trial supported the FDA's decision to approve the drug 5 months earlier than expected.

Blincyto will be used to treat patients with Philadelphia chromosome-negative precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare form of ALL. Blincyto presents a new option for patients who failed previous therapy with stem cell transplant or chemotherapy.

The National Cancer Institute has estimated that more than 6,000 Americans will be diagnosed with ALL in 2014, and nearly half of those diagnoses will be among children.

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