January 12, 2018 / 5:51 PM / in a month

CORRECTED-Spark's planned price for Luxturna gene therapy for rare blindness too high -ICER

(Corrects name of ICER chief medical officer in 4th paragraph.)

By Bill Berkrot

Jan 12 (Reuters) - The proposed price for Spark Therapeutics Inc’s groundbreaking one-time gene therapy for a rare form of blindness is far too high, an independent U.S. nonprofit organization that evaluates clinical and cost effectiveness of new medicines said on Friday.

Spark has announced that its recently approved treatment, Luxturna, would carry a list price of $850,000, or $425,000 per eye, for a form of blindness that affects only 1,000 to 2,000 people in the United States.

Despite some creative payment strategies proposed by the company, such as stretching payment out over several years and refunds if the treatment fails to work, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), in a revised assessment, said Luxturna in most cases should cost about 75 percent less than the proposed price.

“We believe it’s a scientific milestone, but that for the majority of patients being treated, the cost is not in line with what’s considered cost effective,” ICER Chief Medical Officer David Rind said in a telephone interview.

The report comes at a sensitive time for Spark as it negotiates payments and reimbursement with the government and private health insurers ahead of a planned March launch of the therapy.

Other companies developing similar gene therapies are also looking to Spark for indications on what pricing will be deemed acceptable.

The company’s shares were down 0.3 percent in noon trading, while key U.S. stock indexes were higher. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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