Amgen slaps $178K price on rare new leukemia drug Blincyto

Amgen's ($AMGN) leukemia drug Blincyto, FDA-approved late last year to treat an uncommon form of the disease, made its debut at a list price of $178,000 per patient. Though not the priciest rare-disease treatment, it was the most expensive cancer drug at the time, the latest in a new round of expensive treatments, each of which seems to top the last.

Blincyto's price outranked that of any single cancer drug, with Merck's ($MRK) new immunotherapy Keytruda coming closest at $150,000 per year. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) recently unveiled its Japanese pricing for a Keytruda competitor Opdivo, at $143,000. Before that, Bristol-Myers' melanoma drug Yervoy, also an immunotherapy, was among the priciest in oncology, at $120,000.

Like all three of those drugs, Blincyto (blinatumomab) works by using the body's own immune cells to fight cancer. Unlike them, it's directed at a disease that affects a small number of patients, half of them children. And since Amgen rolled out Blincyto, pricier cancer therapies have appeared. For instance, Roche's new Cotellic was approved to fight melanoma in tandem with its targeted drug Zelboraf; together, the two cost $17,600 per month, or $211, 000 per year. More