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Cancer patients find relief with insurance coverage of 3 immunotherapiesHealth-welfare ministry announces reimbursement of anti-cancer drugs
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2018.02.06 17:25
  • Updated 2018.02.07 12:59
  • comments 0

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Monday that it granted insurance coverage to Amgen’s multiple myeloma therapy while expanding the coverage for two leading immunotherapies – Opdivo and Keytruda.

Considering the recent decisions allow patients to shoulder only a minuscule portion of total medical bills, cancer patients are likely to benefit from increased access to and lower financial burden from treatments, company officials said.

The Health-Welfare Ministry granted or expanded insurance coverage for three immunotherapies -- Amgen’s Kyproli, MSD’s Keytruda, and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo – on Monday.

The insurance coverage of Onyx Pharmaceuticals’ carfilzomib, marketed under the brand name Kyproli, will bring down the price of the multiple myeloma drug to 518,000 won ($472.50) for a 30-mg bottle and 1,035,000 won for a 60-mg vial, according to the ministry. Amgen acquired Onyx Pharmaceuticals in 2013.

“Because cancer patients pay around 5 percent of the total costs, and although the cost differs according to the treatment dose, we expect the patient to pay around 310,000 to 620,000 won for Kyproli a month,” an Amgen Korea official said.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approved the drug in March 2017 as a combination treatment for multiple myeloma patients that had at least one other type of treatment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved Kyprolis in July 2012 to treat patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least two prior therapies but had their disease progress on or within 60 days of completing the last treatment.

The health-welfare ministry also reported expanded reimbursement plans for two leading immunotherapies – Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo and MSD’s Keytruda.

According to an MSD Korea official, the company renegotiated the coverage amount with Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA) after it gained an additional indication for melanoma and reached upon a lower price for Keytruda. The drug now costs 2,846,110 won, according to the HIRA.

“Because cancer patients only pay around 5 percent of the total drug cost, individuals will pay 142,300 won for weekly injections for three weeks,” an MSD Korea company official said.

For Bristol-Myers Squibb’s immunotherapy, promoted by Ono Pharma Korea, the cost of a 10-mL bottle of Opdivo has been set at 1,320,164 won, according to HIRA. The price of a 2-mL bottle will be 330,041 won.

“Opdivo first got insurance coverage for lung cancer last August, and we now got expanded insurance coverage with the additional indication for melanoma. Because there aren’t many melanoma patients, we were able to cut the cost of the initial coverage of Opdivo by about 0.5 percent,” said a Ono Pharma Korea official.

“Patients with melanoma have been waiting for a long time, and we believe that we contributed to society by improving access,” he added.


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