Roche takes on pricey rivals as FDA approves SMA drug

Roche Rituxan approval

Roche is hoping to undercut hugely expensive rivals after the FDA approved its oral spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) drug Evrysdi (risdiplam).

Evrysdi is the third treatment approved for SMA, an ultra-rare muscle wasting disease that can begin in early childhood, after Biogen’s Spinraza (nusinersen) and Novartis’ Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec).

But Spinraza costs $750,000 in the first year of treatment and about half that price annually from then on.

Zolgensma costs about $2.1m for a single shot of the gene therapy, making it the most expensive drug in the world by many people’s reckoning, although the manufacturer argues this is justified given the costs of treating the condition in later life.

Roche has decided to price Evrysdi according to its weight, costing up to $340,000 per year, with the cost being under $100,000 annually for some younger patients.

While this is not cheap by anybody’s reckoning, Roche hopes that the less intimidating price tag, plus the patient-friendly oral administration method will give it a competitive edge.

The FDA approved Evrysdi for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in adults and children two months of age and older.

Roche noted that Evrysdi showed clinically-meaningful improvements in motor function across two clinical trials in people with varying ages and levels of disease severity, including Types 1, 2, and 3 SMA.

Infants achieved the ability to sit without support for at least five seconds, a key motor milestone not normally seen in the natural course of the disease.

Evrysdi also improved survival without permanent ventilation at 12 and 23 months, compared to natural history.

A liquid medicine, Evrysdi is administered daily at home by mouth or feeding tube.

Evrysdi is designed to treat SMA by increasing production of the survival of the motor neuron (SMN) protein. SMN protein is found throughout the body and is critical for maintaining healthy motor neurons and movement.

Roche leads the clinical development of Evrysdi as part of a collaboration with the SMA Foundation and PTC Therapeutics.

Evrysdi will be available in the US within two weeks for direct delivery to patients’ homes through Accredo Health Group, an Express Scripts specialty pharmacy.