GSK's new $32,500 asthma med costs at least 2X too much, U.S. pricing watchdog says

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has a new drug that's tailored for patients with a specific type of severe asthma. But according to a nonprofit body that evaluates drugs' prices against their clinical effectiveness, it costs far, far too much.

Nucala, an injectable indicated for severe asthma patients with eosinophilic inflammation, should cost between $7,800 and $12,000 per year, according to an analysis by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). That's as much as 76% lower than the $32,500 tag it bears right now.

ICER doesn't argue that Nucala, administered once per month, is not effective. "There is moderate certainty" that adding it to the current standard of care achieves results as good or better than the standard of care on its own, it said in a draft report. Nucala also cuts the need for oral steroids, which can prove highly toxic if taken at high doses for long periods of time.

But thanks to short clinical trials for Nucala, ICER isn't sure just how long the med's benefits will last. "There is uncertainty" about whether they'll "persist over the long term," it wrote.

Glaxo, which needs Nucala to help pitch in for declining respiratory behemoth Advair, told FiercePharma in an emailed statement that it disagrees with ICER's analysis. "GSK believes Nucala offers value to healthcare systems and payers," spokesman Juan Carlos Molina said. "It has been fairly priced, balancing the innovation of the medicine and market value with patient access, while delivering real benefit to an underserved patient group."

Nucala isn't the first drug ICER has targeted. Recently, it put PCSK9 contenders Repatha from Amgen ($AMGN) and Praluent from Sanofi ($SNY) and Regeneron ($REGN) in the hot seat, announcing that their list prices were three times too high to stay in line with healthcare budgets and the benefits they provide to patients.

But the cost watchdog isn't down on all pharma's recent newcomers. Take Novo Nordisk's ($NVO) new long-acting insulin, Tresiba, for instance: While it thinks the med's list price of $7,800 per year is 8% to 10% too high, that markup is "well within the range of typical discounts available to payers," it said in a draft report released alongside Nucala's.

- read ICER's release

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