Høie wants Danish-Norwegian co-operation for cheaper medicine
Minister of Health, Bent Høie (Conservatives), has contacted his Danish colleague with the intent to negotiate the price of the NOK one million medicine branded Spinraza.
Nine children suffer from the severe muscular disease ‘spinal muscle atrophy’ in Norway. Spinraza is the only medicine on the market that has life-prolonging effect.
The medicine costs NOK 1 million per injection. The price was crucial in deciding that the treatment will not be made available in Norwegian hospitals.
– We want to say yes to the drug, but we have to say no to the price. This is one of the world’s most expensive drugs. Before we can say yes, we ask that the manufacturer significantly reduce the price tag. The price the pharmaceutical company requires is simply put unethical, says chairman of the medical forum, Lars Vorland.
Made Contact with Danish colleague
Minister of Health, Bent Høie, contacted his Danish counterpart on Monday to see if the health authorities of the two countries can join forces in negotiating with the pharmaceutical company. Høie also reacts strongly to the price of Spinraza.
– This is clearly a price that in my opinion is unethically high. We also see that other countries have made the same conclusion as Norway, he says to NTB.
The health ministers in the Nordic countries have previously discussed the possibility of collaborating regarding price negotiations and procurement of medicines on a general basis. Høie however states that there is reason to collaborate on Spinraza specifically, as the assessment by Denmark is the same as made by the decision-making forum.
Most difficult case ever
The question was considered at the forum meeting in Oslo Monday. Vorland says the case is the most difficult they have dealt with ever.
Children born with the most serious type of hereditary neurological disease die early. The disease leads to loss of muscles, and many never learn to either walk or to sit.
Spinraza is one of the world’s most expensive drugs. Per patient, the treatment costs NOK 7 million in the first year of treatment (seven injections at NOK 1 million each) and NOK 3 million the following years (three injections per year for the rest of their life), the decision-making forum informs.
The initial year is estimated to cost NOK 200 million.
– It is a given that the pharmaceutical industry wants to cover their development costs and to make significant profits, but it does not legitimize that the pharmaceutical company can claim whatever they want for the drug, Vorland says
Gave treatment for free during testing
The drug manufacturer, Biogen, has provided the children with the life-extension medication at no cost while it was being evaluated by the Norwegian authorities. But after the medicine was approved for sale, this is no longer the case.
Vorland believes there is no reason to believe that Biogen has development and production costs that defend the high price.
– We often see that pharmaceutical companies demand very high prices for treatments where there is little or no competition. In this particular case, we consider that the pharmaceutical company speculates in this to get as high a price as possible, and in my opinion this is outright unethical, he says.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today