From the Journals

Kymriah cost effectiveness depends on long-term outcomes



The cost-effectiveness of tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) depends on long-term clinical outcomes, which are presently unknown, according to investigators.

Dr. John K. Lin of the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research at Stanford (Calif.) University Courtesy Stanford University

Dr. John K. Lin

If the long-term outcomes are more modest than clinical trials suggest, then payers may be unwilling to cover the costly therapy, reported John K. Lin, MD, of the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research at Stanford (Calif.) University, and his colleagues. Lowering the price or setting up an outcomes-based pricing structure may be necessary to get insurers to cover the therapy.

Tisagenlecleucel is an anti-CD19 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2017 for relapsed or refractory pediatric B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). In 2018, the FDA expanded the indication for tisagenlecleucel to include adults with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma, though outcomes from lymphoma trials are not analyzed in the current study.

At a wholesale acquisition cost of $475,000 per infusion, it is the most expensive existing oncology therapy to date, and can be accompanied by expensive, potentially fatal adverse effects. However, clinical trials suggest that tisagenlecleucel can offer years of relapse-free remission, thereby allowing patients to forgo other expensive therapies such as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).

“Although tisagenlecleucel-induced remission rates are promising, compared with those of established therapies (greater than 80% vs. less than 50%), only short-term follow-up data currently exist,” the investigators wrote in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. “Given the high cost and broad applicability in other malignancies of tisagenlecleucel, a pressing question for policy makers, payers, patients, and clinicians is whether the cost of therapy represents reasonable value.”

The study used a Markov model to assess various long-term clinical outcome rates and cost thresholds of tisagenlecleucel. The lifetime cost of therapy was assessed and compared with costs of existing therapies.

The results showed that a 5-year relapse free survival rate of 40% would make the present cost ($475,000) of tisagenlecleucel economically reasonable. In this scenario, the increased life expectancy would be 12.1 years and would result in an additional 5.07 quality-adjusted life years (QALY) gained at a cost of $61,000 per QALY, compared with blinatumomab.

But if long-term outcomes are less favorable, tisagenlecleucel becomes much less cost effective. A 5-year relapse-free survival rate of 20% would drop increased life expectancy to 3.8 years, resulting in 1.80 QALYs gained and raising the cost to $151,000 per QALY.

“Our results suggest that at tisagenlecleucel’s current price and payment structure, its economic value is uncertain,” the investigators wrote.

They suggested a price drop to $200,000 or $350,000, which would allow the drug to remain cost effective even in a worse-case scenario, in which patients relapse and tisagenlecleucel is a bridge to transplant. Another option is to move to outcomes-based pricing. Making payment conditional on 7 months of remission would make the treatment cost effective, according to the analysis.

“Price reductions of tisagenlecleucel or payment only for longer-term remissions would favorably influence cost-effectiveness, even if long-term clinical outcomes are modest,” the investigators wrote.

The study was funded by a Veterans Affairs Office of Academic Affiliations advanced fellowship in health service and research development, and a National Center for Advancing Translational Science Clinical and Translational Science Award. One of the study coauthors reported consulting and research funding from Novartis.

SOURCE: Lin et al. J Clin Oncol. 2018 Sep 13. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2018.79.0642.

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