The target of Senator Sanders terrible tweet was a small innovative pharmaceutical company (Ariad Pharmaceuticals) and its innovative drug Iclusig (for chronic myeloid leukemia treatment). The company raised the price – and Senator Sanders can’t see why. He should open his eyes.
A few facts that are worth sharing. The first is that Iclusig serves a population of approximately 1,000 to 2,000 patients. And these patients have limited options. Ariad Pharmaceuticals, works to ensures that no patient is prevented from treatment due to price. (They provide a robust support program for patients who have accessibility and affordability concerns.)
Second, these types of ultra-orphan disease cancer patient population programs require large investments and face tremendous odds. Ariad sure doesn’t look profitable. They’ve invested more than $1.3 billion in R&D and accumulated losses of approximately $1.4 billion since the company was founded. But they’re betting on innovation. In 2015, Ariad generated $119 million in total revenue and invested $171 million, or 143% of revenue, in R&D alone.
Third and most importantly, Iclusig works. It significantly increases 10-year survival rates for patients with no other hope or option except for expensive stem cell transplants and draconian radiation treatments.
Attention Senator Sanders. It’s not just a question of an ecosystem-driven price. It’s also about investment and value – precisely the rationale behind the Orphan Drug Act -- to encourage investment in treatments for small and in this case, tiny, populations. “Facts,” as John Adams quipped, “are pesky things.