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From ICER’s President and CEO Sarah K. Emond, MPP:

Yesterday Amylyx announced it would remove Relyvrio, a treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), from the market. The drug was originally approved in 2022 based on a small phase II trial, well ahead of the conclusion of its phase III trial. The results of that phase III trial were reported last month and unfortunately, the therapy failed to provide any benefit to patients. Historically, a failed trial following FDA approval has not resulted in an automatic revocation of FDA approval or withdrawal of the drug from the market, and post-marketing trial requirements are not consistently used to assess the regulatory status of all approved products. Despite this hole in regulation, Amylyx made the responsible decision to discontinue this drug, and is being rightly lauded for the choice.

Of course, everyone hopes that treatments approved early with limited evidence will prove effective. But when they don’t, this is how it is supposed to play out: patients get early access to a potentially promising treatment, and then when all the data come in and the benefits fall short, the manufacturer removes the drug from the market. What’s missing from this story though is price: since 2022, the health system paid a steep price for a drug with no proven benefit to patients. When ICER reviewed Relyvrio (prior to FDA approval), we recommended that the manufacturer consider setting the launch price, “close to the cost of production until the benefits of treatment can be adequately evaluated.” Amylyx priced the drug at $158,000 per year, far beyond ICER’s recommended price of $9,100 to $30,700 per year, a price range based on the benefits shown in the small phase II trial. The fact is, that when our health care system allows pricing of treatments far above any reasonable alignment with the benefits they have demonstrated for patients, we do real harm to unseen people in the health care system. Costs increase for everyone without making anyone healthier. And as costs increase, more people forgo care or drop their health insurance all together.

Even though the story played out as planned this time, the system can be improved to protect all patients and ensure affordability for everyone.