Vertex ‘will make $21bn from treating cystic fibrosis’ from ‘unaffordable’ drug

Vertex (US company) who make cystic fibrosis drugs are claiming they have invested billions into research and must price the drug at a high to cut losses and invest in future drugs. Orkambi is a life-changing cystic fibrosis drug which is unaffordable to the NHS and Vertex are refusing to cut their prices. Parents have been desperately campaigning to get access to the drugs for their children with cystic fibrosis, whilst a paper by professor of economics (Aidan Hollis) at Calgary University in Canada estimated that they will make £17 billion ($21.2 bn) from Orkambi and Kalydeco – their two cystic fibrosis drugs.

Vertex prices mean that it would cost £104,000 per patient per year for Orkambi – the drug is not a cure for cystic fibrosis, and their accounts show product revenues in the second quarter of 2019 are at a 25% increase from last year. Vertex are currently developing a new drug containing both the previous drugs and a third element. The new drug is estimated to help 90% of cystic fibrosis sufferers, whereas the current drugs only help a small proportion.

NHS England said: “NHS has made two of the most generous offers of its kind to this company and intensive work continues on a daily basis but the quickest way for patients to get access to Orkambi is still for Vertex to accept our offer and engage with Nice,” said a spokesperson.

“Vertex is an extreme outlier in both pricing and behaviour. In fact, the pharmaceutical trade body said the current offer represents exactly the sort of flexibility industry wants and warned companies they cannot just pick any price they like for a new medicine.”

Full story in The Guardian, 12 August 2019