National

Posted: August 31, 2017

FDA approves new leukemia treatment, costs $475k


By Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new leukemia treatment that may bring hope to cancer patients, but it comes at a high price.

The therapy is called Kymriah, and it is being made by Norvartis.

It was developed to be used on children and young adults battling B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia who have either relapsed or their disease resisted standard treatment, the New York Times reported.

Kymriah works by training a patient’s cells to recognize the cancer and attack it, CNN reported.

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The treatment will only be used once and is made custom for each patient. It also will cost $475,000, but the gamble may be worth it. If a patient receives the treatment, but doesn’t show any response to Kymriah in the first month, Norvartis will not charge them, CNN reported. It will also help families who can’t afford it and are either uninsured or underinsured, the Times reported.

Patients’ white blood cells will be harvested and shipped to Novartis in New Jersey. The lab will preform genetic engineering using a virus and will have the cells multiply before freezing them and shipping back to the hospital, where they will be given to the patient via an IV. It is expected to take 22 days for full product turnaround, the Times reported.

There could be side effects. The manipulated cells could cause a cytokine storm, which could present with high fever, low blood pressure, long congestion and other life-threatening issues.

It is estimated that around 600 patients could qualify for the treatment a year in the United States.

The treatment was developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and licensed to Norvartis, the Times reported.

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