Blindness-curing gene therapy priced at $850,000 for one-time treatment

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Spark Therapeutics' Luxturna therapy treats progressive blindness — but it has a hefty price tag.

The one-time treatment would cost a patient $850,000, NBC reported. That's $425,000 per eye.

"It's wildly expensive but, to be very frank, I think they've priced it what I'll call responsibly," said Dr. Steve Miller, chief medical officer of pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts told CNBC. "The product is just phenomenally innovative, and we've been talking about gene therapy for over 20 years. We're now at the threshold of having gene therapy reaching patients."

Some expected the cost to come closer to a million dollars, which is within a normal price range for rare disease drugs, Forbes reported.

Clinical trials for the therapy had patients navigate obstacle courses in different levels of light. Those receiving Luxturna reportedly showed significant improvement in low light situations after about a year.

The treatment involves injecting a modified cold virus directly into the eye to deliver corrected genes to the retina.

Spark's chief executive, Jeff Marazzo, is working out payment plans and access for those who wish to purchase the treatment. He is also negotiating with Harvard Pilgrim, a not-for-profit health care company, to pay rebates in cases when Luxturna isn't effective within a 30- to 90-day period.