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GlaxoSmithKline’s Asthma Drug is too Expensive, Independent Group Says

Update Date: Dec 22, 2015 02:31 PM EST

GlaxoSmithKline's new drug, Nucala is too expensive, the independent nonprofit group, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), concluded.

According to the Boston-based group, Nucala, which treats severe asthma, should be priced anywhere from $7,800 to $12,000 a year, which is about 76 percent lower than the drug's list price of $32,500 a year.

Glaxo, the pharmaceutical company that is based in Britain, stated that although it respects and supports ICER's analyses, it does not agree with the organization's conclusion.

"We believe that Nucala is fairly priced, balancing innovation and market value with patient access," Glaxo spokeswoman Sarah Spencer said reported by Reuters.

GlaxoSmithKline added that the drug reduces the direct and indirect costs that could arise from asthma-related health issues. ICER argued that the drug was not cost-effective particularly because long-term benefits from taking the drug are still uncertain. The trial period was relatively short.

Nucala, which comes in the form of a once-a-month injection, was approved in the U.S. last month after the researchers found that it was effective at reducing a patient's number of asthma attacks and symptoms. Nucala also lowered a patient's need for oral steroids.

"This approval offers patients with severe asthma an additional therapy when current treatments cannot maintain adequate control of their asthma," Badrul Chowdhury, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Rheumatology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said at the time of the approval.

Side effects of nucala include headache, weakness, back pain, and irritation at the site of injection.

The report analyzed Novo Nordisk's long-acting insulin, Tresiba, which they determined was priced accurately. The drug has a list price of $7,800 a year, which was considered to be eight to 10 percent too high.

ICER stated that the price, however, was still "well within the range of typical discounts available to payers."

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