The Positive Side of Medicine

The Most Expensive Drug Tags

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This article is originally posted on Medical Billing and Coding

This mind-blowing list contains 11 super-expensive drugs that are mostly prescribed in rare diseases. Due to their very limited consumption, pharmaceutical companies arranged these high prices to cover up their research and development expenses.

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1- Soliris

According to Forbes Soliris is world’s single most expensive drug, coming in at $409,500 a year! Soliris is used to treat paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, a rare blood disease that affects 8,000 Americans. Soliris’ high price tag is largely due to $800 million investment and 15 years of research that Alexion Pharmaceuticals put into its development. Its 2009 sales were $295 million, and in 2010, Alexion pulled in $541 million for the drug. The high cost of Soliris is shocking, but studies showed that Soliris use results in a 90% reductionin the most serious complication and cause of death from paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.

2. Elaprase

  • Patients who suffer from Hunter syndrome, an inherited disease caused by a lack of the enzyme iduronate sulfatase can find relief in the recombinant form of this enzyme, but at an incredibly high price of $375,000 each year. Some estimates put its annual cost as high as $657,000. Each vial of the drug is reported to cost $4,215 each, and in the U.S. alone, the 500 Americans who suffer from Hunter syndrome spent a combined $353 million on Elaprase in 2009.

3. Naglazyme

Naglazyme is right behind Elaprase’s reported $375,000 price tag, coming in at the bargain price of just $365,000. This purified human enzyme is used to treat Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome, a rare genetic metabolic condition that typically presents itself in childhood through growth retardation in intellectually normal toddlers, and can cause tissue damage and mental retardation. The administration of the drug improves growth and joint movement, as well as range of motion and pain management.

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4. Cinryze

Patients with hereditary angioedema suffer from severe swelling, often in the face and airways, caused by low levels or improper function of the C1 inhibitor protein. This condition is hereditary, and there’s usually a family history, but often, deaths from hereditary angioedema go undiagnosed and reported as a sudden and premature death of a family member. This makes the condition relatively rare, and the treatment is quite expensive: an estimated $350,000 per year for Cinryze, an injectable man-made protein form of complement C1 esterase inhibitor. Cinryze maker Viropharma has mapped out yearly sales of the drug ranging from $95 million to as much as $350 million.

5. Folotyn

Getting cancer is bad enough, but things just get even worse when the cost of treating such a severe disease begins to sink in. Patients with T-cell lymphoma typically turn to Folotyn when their cancer has not improved with treatment, or comes back. This drug works by killing cancer cells, and has a short course of treatment. Typically, patients will take the drug for about six weeks, but even in that short amount of time, the bill for this treatment is staggering — around $30,000 per month.


If you think $30,000 per month is insane, consider this: it’s a bargain compared to the approximate $115,000 per month families pay for ACTH. This drug is used to treat infantile spasms, seizures that often affect infants 4 to 6 months of age. Daily injections of ACTH are given for a period of weeks up to several months. At $23,000 per vial, patients often use 6 to 7 vials per course, and often go through two courses, which adds up to more than $300,000 in prescription drug bills. Unfortunately, ACTH is not FDA-approved to treat infantile spasms, and that means families may have trouble getting their insurance companies to pay for this mind-boggling bill.


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