Emerging gene therapies could cost millions per treatment

The seven-figure healthcare procedure?

That could be the case with emerging gene therapy treatments, raising questions as to whether providers and patients should finance such care, The Washington Post has reported.

Emerging gene therapies are likely to be priced at more than $1 million per procedure, as initial pricing in Europe for approved procedures is in that current price range, according to the Post. That's partly because unlike drugs, the benefits from gene therapy would be far more long-lasting. The Post reported that one potential therapy that could cure some forms of hemophilia could be priced as much as $4 to $6 million.

The issue is likely to become one hospitals and healthcare systems confront in the coming years as many of them create centers for genomic and genetic research, such as Partners HealthCare, which recently received a sizable federal grant for genetic research.

Meanwhile, the costs of healthcare even outside of the realm of gene therapy have become formidable. The current cost of providing basic healthcare coverage for a family of four is currently $25,000 a year, and a brief eye exam can run into the four figures. And even the prices of old-line drugs have spiked to hundreds of dollars a dose.

Some economists have suggested either pricing gene therapies on an annualized basis, with payments of perhaps $150,000 a year so long as a therapy is working, or requiring a down-payment with additional smaller payments over time. University of Washington economist Anirban Basu has proposed an alternative currency called HealthCoin that insurers can purchase and resell at a lower price if the patient switches health coverage or ages into the Medicare program.

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