Seattle Genetics prices Adcetris above $100K

Yet another $100,000-plus cancer treatment will soon hit the market. Seattle Genetics, which won early FDA approval for its new lymphoma drug Adcetris, has tagged it with a $13,500-per-dose price, Xconomy reports. At the typical number of infusions used in clinical trials, treatment would run about $108,000.

The justifications are these: it's the first new treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma since 1977 and the first approved specifically for anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It's intended for people who have failed on chemo, which means Adcetris would be directed at a fairly small patient population, several thousand patients per year. The data supporting its use is strong, if sparse enough to have raised flags with the FDA advisory panel that recommended it for approval.

Xconomy suggests that the case for a 6-digit Adcetris price might even be better than a 5-digit price on some other cancer treatments that only work in one-fourth or one-third of patients. Adcetris targets an antigen, CD30, that's overexpressed by some cancers; a diagnostic test can identify which patients are most likely to respond, and so fewer patients would get ineffective-and-expensive treatment.

Consider, too, the new Bristol-Myers Squibb melanoma drug Yervoy. It has a $120,000 price tag. It, too, is the first exciting new treatment for melanoma in decades. It's intended for people with advanced metastatic melanoma. And its data is strong (but not sparse, it must be noted). So, Adcetris isn't exactly setting a precedent.

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