New Biotech May Reduce the Cost of Treating Chronic Disease

July 21, 2017 in LifeCare Health Services

For many chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, the drugs to battle them are very high in cost, leading to high heath care expenses for patients. However, a new, experimental breakthrough originating from the Netherlands may be an answer for patients and doctors seeking to save money when combating these conditions. This breakthrough is known as organoid testing.

Organoids are small groupings of cells that resemble the structures of human organs. They are created by taking samples of patient’s DNA and growing them into cell clusters. Once this is done, the drugs, in this case expensive cystic fibrosis medication, will be tested on the tissues to see if they respond appropriately. Because the cells came from the patient’s DNA, it’s purported that this will tell how the patient’s own body would react to the drugs. This gives doctors the foreknowledge about whether or not to order the drug for their patients. It saves money for those who have not passed the screening as they will no longer spend money for medicine that’s ineffective. It’s also ensuring that those who do pass the screening will be spending their money wisely.

The reason for this breakthrough is that, right now in the Netherlands, there is a battle being waged over pricing for the biotech company Vertex’s most potent cystic fibrosis drug, Orkambi. Orkambi costs around 300,000 per patient, per year, and it only works for about 50% of people with cystic fibrosis. Debates abound between the company and the Dutch government as to whether it’s worth the cost as it is not effective for about 50% of patients who have the condition. In response to this, laboratories in the Netherlands have begun this new organoid testing method.

The science of organoids is very young, but Vertex scientists believe that this can be the future of medicine. Right now, they are looking into expanding organoid testing to other conditions in addition to cystic fibrosis.

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