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Psoriasis drug Otezla sold for $13.4 billion—here’s how much it could cost you

Shawn M. Carter

Biopharmaceutical giant Amgen announced Monday it has agreed to buy popular psoriasis and psoriatic-arthritis drug Otezla from Celgene for $13.4 billion. The deal helps clear the way for Amgen’s previously announced merger with pharmaceutical brand Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.

According to a press release Robert A. Bradway, chairman and chief executive officer at Amgen, believes his company's "20 years of experience in inflammatory disease" will help "realize the full global potential of Otezla as an affordable option for patients with these serious, chronic inflammatory conditions."

Affordable of course depends on who you talk to. Online pharmaceutical website Drugs.com estimates 27 tablets will cost a whopping $889, depending on the pharmacy, and 55 tablets will be four times that amount, at $3,556. Otezla is the only oral, non-biologic treatment for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and certain related liabilities: “A generic version is not yet available.”

According to prescription service Single Care, the average American spends just about $1,200 a year on prescription drugs.

In many cases with name-brand drugs such as Otzela, there are  “patient assistance programs" sponsored by pharmaceutical companies that provide free or discounted medicines to patients with lower incomes or who are uninsured or under-insured and meet specific guidelines.

But to some big pharma critics, the Otzela deal is just the latest example of more high priced drugs. Trulicity, made by Eli Lilly, another drug that frequently advertises on TV, costs around $801 for a supply of 2 milliliters according to Drugs.com. By comparison Victoza -- from Novo Nordisk -- another diabetes drug costs around $650 for 6  milliliters.

The Trump administration has taken steps that aim to combat the high cost of pharmaceutical drugs.

Last year, President Donald Trump proposed a plan that he said would stop unfair practices that force Americans to pay more for prescriptions than people in other countries: “We are taking aim at the global freeloading that forces American consumers to subsidize lower prices in foreign countries through higher prices in our country,” he said.

Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced recently that prescription drug makers in the United States must begin disclosing their list prices in television ads, a move the Trump administration thinks could cut costs and provide more transparency.

“We’re doing it because we believe that transparency in healthcare is important,” Azar said on “America’s Newsroom.” “You have a fundamental right as a patient to be in control, and being in control means when you go see a doctor, when you go into the pharmacy, you ought to know what something costs … before you’re handed a surprise bill.”

The Otezla acquisition is contingent on Bristol-Myers Squibb entering a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission in connection with the pending Celgene merger, according to the release, but the transition is expected to close by the end of 2019.

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