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Are Newer MS Drugs Worth Their High Price Tag?
Date:7/21/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Newer "biologic" drugs for multiple sclerosis do benefit some patients, a new study finds, but they are extraordinarily expensive and may not be cost-effective when compared to more basic treatments.

That's not to say that people with MS should not be taking these so-called disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) -- such as interferon or Tysabri. Rather, moves should be made to make the drugs more affordable, the researchers said.

Although these drugs aren't a cure, "they delay disease progression [and are] the best we can do at this point," explained Katia Noyes, lead author of a paper appearing in the July 20 online issue of Neurology. And right now, she noted, "these medications are available in European countries for about one-third of the cost as in the U.S."

The authors noted, for example, that in 2010 a year's supply of one type of interferon drug would cost an estimated $12,000 in the United Kingdom, compared to $34,000 in the United States.

Lowering U.S. prices by two-thirds (67 percent) would make the drugs much more cost-effective, the authors stated. So would starting the medications earlier, so as to better stave off MS-linked disability.

"This in no way suggests that anyone appropriate for treatment should not be on it, [but] the study reminds us that costs of the therapies, particularly the out-of-pocket costs for people with MS, are an important consideration," said Nicholas LaRocca, vice president for health care delivery and policy research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) in New York City.

The NMSS was one of the study's sponsors.

The drugs can typically cost about $30,000 a year, said Noyes, who is associate professor and division chief of health policy and outcomes research at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

According to the NMSS, about 400,000 people
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