The $158,000 price tag for a new ALS drug reignites Big Pharma’s fury

A new ALS drug treatment is sparking renewed frustration at Big Pharma after their drugmaker priced it at $158,000 a year, prompting exorbitant insurance lawsuits to access it.

Relyvrio, a drug manufactured by Amylyx Pharmaceutical, has been found to slow the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that typically proves fatal within five years. ALS patients suffer from a gradual loss of control over their movements and lose the ability to walk and even speak as the disease progresses.

As a result, getting a drug that quickly slows progression is crucial for many patients, but Amylyx’s high price causes insurance companies to lock the drug behind a lengthy application process, and the drug is sometimes even prohibitive for reporting patients , according to the Associated Press.

“When a person’s life expectancy is measured in months, it’s just cruel to have people go through these multiple rounds of screening,” said Neil Thakur, chief mission officer of the ALS Association.

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A doctor talks to a patient during an exam.

A doctor talks to a patient during an exam.
(iStock)

Amylyx developed Relyvrio – its very first product – by combining a liver treatment drug with a dietary supplement used in traditional Chinese medicine, two ingredients that are relatively inexpensive.

Still, pharmaceutical companies argue that the sky-high price of drugs is due to the FDA’s lengthy approval process. According to the AP, Amylyx expects Relyvrio to make $450 million in earnings.

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Big pharma remains one of the least popular industries in the US, as companies routinely release drugs at exorbitant prices.

President Biden’s administration has attempted to unilaterally lower drug costs through state regulation, but Republicans on Capitol Hill have argued that such a move would stifle the industry.

President Joe Biden holds a press conference.

President Joe Biden holds a press conference.
(Fox News)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters after a Republican strategy meeting in the Capitol in Washington Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters after a Republican strategy meeting in the Capitol in Washington Tuesday, March 8, 2022.
((AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite))

“The American people know that the government cannot magically lower costs by passing legislation that says things should cost less,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said while debating legislation in July . “The bill will be delivered to Americans living with actual health challenges.”

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“The price of bigger government going forward will be fewer life-saving cures and less innovation,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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