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Why the world’s most expensive drug might not be all that overpriced

The staff of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER, are known as the nerds of the drug industry: bespectacled killjoys who emerge a few times a year to scold drugmakers for pricing their latest cancer or MS advance far beyond reason.

But last year, they sat down and concluded a forthcoming treatment was worth up to $3.9 million — more than any medicine in history, more than a 45-year supply of Humira, the autoimmune drug often held up as an emblem of America’s runaway drug spending. 

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It was a testament to the power of a new class of gene therapies to deliver something pharma so rarely does: Genuine cures. The treatment, approved last week as Lenmeldy, may allow some babies born with an ultra-rare neurodegenerative disease called metachromatic leukodystrophy, or MLD, to grow up and live essentially normal lives.

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