Doctors who helped create a new heart drug are speaking out against its $225,000 price.
Dubbed Tafamidis, the heart medication is a product of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which brought in a whopping $53 million in revenue last year. It’s the first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for transthyretin amyloidosis, a cardiac condition that can lead to trouble breathing, fluid accumulation and death, a Bloomberg report explained.
The pills cost about $651 a day, or $225,000 annually, according to Dr. Mathew Maurer, a Columbia University professor and medical expert who worked with Pfizer to develop the drug. Speaking at the Heart Failure Society of America in Philadelphia in September, he said that medications like Tafamidis only work if people can afford to purchase them.
And Maurer is not the only doctor to point out the drug’s price tag. At least three other officials involved in Tafamidis’ development told Bloomberg they take issue with the cost.
While Pfizer does offer assistance programs to those who struggle to pay or who cannot pay at all, critics argue that since many of the patients who need Tafamidis are insured through Medicare, they could be on the hook for exorbitant out-of-pocket costs.
“We’ve had patients say, ‘I can’t afford it,’ or ‘I don’t want to sacrifice my granddaughter’s education,’” Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Martha Grogan said in the report. “We know one patient who moved out of their home [and] moved in with their children” in order to pay.
Part of the reason for the high price has nothing to do with the drug. Medications, including Tafamidis, are often inexpensive to manufacture, but added costs are passed on to the consumer after accounting for the millions spent on tests and marketing.
For its part, Pfizer said the price of its drug is appropriate since it’s based on what the company anticipates will be a small number of patients getting it. Spokespeople for the firm said if the medication becomes more widely used it will consider a price reduction.
“Any time you bring a treatment into an area where there was not one previously, you’re going to have to establish a new cost benchmark for treatment of that disease,” said Nolan Townsend, regional president of Pfizer’s North America Rare Disease unit.
This is not the first time certain meds have been called out for high costs. When biopharmaceutical giant Amgen bought popular psoriasis and psoriatic-arthritis drug Otezla in August, the price of the drug hit nearly $900 for 27 tablets and more than $3,500 for 55.
The average American spends just about $1,200 a year on prescription drugs.
Critics of the high prices have called on lawmakers to limit what patients pay for medicine.
Last year, President Donald Trump proposed a plan that he said would stop unfair practices that force Americans to pay more for prescriptions than people in other countries. “We are taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidize lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country,” he said.
Pfizer’s stock is down 14 percent on the year and 15 percent year-to-date.