The top 10 most expensive drugs of 2013

The price of Gilead Sciences' breakthrough drug Sovaldi has drawn all of the attention this year. By pricing it at $85,000 for a 12-week course, Gilead Sciences ($GILD) has been pilloried by politicians, payers and providers. But as EvaluatePharma points out, at that price Sovaldi barely makes it into the top 20 most expensive drugs, number 19 to be exact, just above Novartis' ($NVS) Gleevec and just below GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Mekinist.

Sovaldi is pricey, but if you want to talk about really pricey, then look at the 10 most expensive. The least of those, Celgene's ($CELG) Revlimid, ran $128,666 last year, the numbers ninjas at EvaluatePharma determined. The most expensive, Soliris, costs nearly $537,000.

Of course, debate about the appropriate price for drugs is ongoing. It costs a lot of money to discover and develop drugs, including the money that gets sunk into candidates that don't succeed. And because of the way the U.S. market works, it will have the highest prices that the market will bear.

Among the 20 most expensive drugs, only hep C fighter Sovaldi, Roche's breast cancer drug Kadcyla and Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) colon cancer drug Erbitux are not orphans, drugs approved under a special program to motivate companies to develop treatments for conditions that usually have patient populations of fewer than 200,000. In the case of some rare diseases, like Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome, for which BioMarin ($BMRN) developed Naglazyme, the patient pool may be very, very small. EvaluatePharma says Naglazyme was prescribed to just 64 people in the U.S. last year.

Companies have programs to help patients pay for many of these drugs, and what is the alternative for patients? The burden of paying for some of these drugs eventually goes away, when patients recover, or die, but many of these drugs are for chronic conditions. Still, it is interesting to note that some of these prices rival the median price of homes in the U.S., which ran $265,000 for a new home in 2013 and $197,000 for an existing home. And for a home you can get a mortgage.

In this report, we give you the ins and outs on the 10 most expensive drugs. We are interested in your thoughts. You can contact Carly Helfand or myself or go to the FiercePharma LinkedIn group and start a discussion on whatever aspect of this fascinating topic you choose. -- Eric Palmer (email | Twitter)

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The top 10 most expensive drugs of 2013