Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin), recently FDA approved for Hodgkin lymphoma and systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma, may cost over $100,000 for a course of treatment, or $4,500 per vial. According to marketers and manufacturers, Seattle Genetics, patients typically need three vials in one dose, and from seven to nine doses per course of treatment – a cost range of from $94,500 to $121,500.

This is not the only drug to be approved recently with a huge price tag. Provenge, a prostate cancer vaccine, costs approximately $93,000 per course. Even though Provenge’s marketers, Dendreon Corp. were happy with the its approval, the price tag sent its share price down as investors feared doctors may be concerned about being reimbursed – and as expected, sales were a disappointment.

According to Seattle Genetics, it expects some reimbursement issues when the product goes onto the market initially. However, the company insists its price is based extensive conversations with insurers, patients and doctors.

Savient Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Human Genome Sciences Inc. also had poor sales after being approved for expensive treatments.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Seattle Genetics’ share price dropped 2.3% in afternoon trading on Nasdaq today. In the five years leading up to a recommendation for approval of Adcetris by an FDA Advisory Panel in July this year, the company’s shares jumped fivefold. Adcetris is the first Hodgkin lymphoma medication to be approved in thirty years.

Market experts say that as brentuximab vedotin is designed to treat younger patients who rely on private insurance more than federal programs, the price tag may be less of an issue.

Even so, investors are much more interested these days on how many doctors will prescribe a new medication, how widespread reimbursement by insurance companies will be, and how much patients will benefit. Simply collecting data on a drug’s effectiveness and showing how many millions have been spent on an experimental drug is not enough anymore.

Approximately 9,000 Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 3,000 systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma diagnoses are made annually in the USA.

Adcetris is a combination of a drug and an antibody – an antibody-drug conjugate. It allows the antibody to direct the drug on to a target in lymphoma cells, known asCD30. Adcetris is used to treat individuals with Hodgkin’s lymphoma whose cancer has progressed after autologous stem cell transplant, or after two previous chemotherapy treatments (and the patient cannot receive a transplant). It may also be used in patients with systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma whose cancer progressed after one treatment with chemotherapy.

Written by Christian Nordqvist