Bluebird, Vertex Gene Therapies May Answer $1m Question: Can Competition Reduce Rx Prices?

The US Food and Drug Administration’s simultaneous approval of two gene therapies for sickle cell disease from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated/CRISPR Therapeutics AG and bluebird bio on 8 December provides the competitors an equal start out of the gate, and offers another test for the Rx policy concept that intra-class competition can drive down prices.

Based on the initial list prices, though, it seems like perhaps competition cannot do that, at least not in this case, or at least not yet. Bluebird bio’s Lyfgenia has a wholesale acquisition cost of $3.1m, while the WAC for Vertex and CRISPR’s Casgevy is $2.2m, which might be a significant handicap for bluebird in securing reimbursement.

Cathy Kelly

Cathy Kelly

Cathy is a senior writer with Pink Sheet and has covered U.S. regulation and reimbursement policy for the biopharma industry since 2004, starting with the establishment of the Medicare Part D program. Since then, she has written extensively about developments in all major sectors of the U.S. insurance market (Medicare, Medicaid and commercial plans). She has covered key legislation affecting biopharma, including the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act which created Part D, health care reform under President Obama, and the Inflation Reduction Act. She has closely followed the increasing influence of pharmacy benefit managers and their use of formulary negotiations and rebates to control pricing. Cathy also has covered developments in health technology assessments and has monitored industry progress on novel drug contracting that reflects value-based pricing.

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