On March 29th Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio received approval from the FDA to offer CAR-T therapy for Myeloma. The ide-cel therapy will be marketed under the brand name Abecma.
For those of you who do not know about this therapy, here is a very quick description. Abecma (idecabtagene vicleucel), is the first B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) directed chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell immunotherapy approved for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma after receiving four or more lines of therapy, including an immunotherapy agent, a proteasome inhibitor, and an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody.
Like all of you know, the costs for cancer therapies are always very expensive. This one is no different. The estimated cost of treatment alone is estimated to be in the same ballpark of CAT-T treatment for leukemia of $500,000 or more. This does not include subsequent treatment which can run upwards of $500,000.
Be aware that the mechanisms for Medicare paying for this treatment is still up in the air. Also, access is going to be driven by insurance and cost challenges.
Because the approval is so recent, Bristol Myer Squibb has not released any additional financial help for this treatment, but it may be coming soon. However, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society will continue to provide financial help up to $11,000/year as long as funds are available according to their newly expanded coverage program. Additionally, the Susan Lang Pre-CAR-T Therapy Travel Assistance Program will provide up to $2,500 for patients with significant needs who are being evaluated to receive CAR-T cell therapy as either standard treatment or clinical trial.
This assistance covers travel lodging expenses from the evaluation phase through the end of the conditioning therapy phase. The grant will cover ground transportation, tolls, gas, parking, car rental, and car maintenance repairs and parts, air transportation, baggage fees, lodging, and ambulance service.
Criteria for participation in this program:
- Income must be 500% of the federal poverty guidelines and adjusted by the Cost-of-Living Index which is determined by your zip code.
- Must be a US citizen or permanent resident of U.S. Or U.S. territories.
- Have a blood cancer diagnosis confirmed by a doctor.
- Be in process of being evaluated for CAR-T cell therapy as either standard treatment or in a clinical trial
- Patients may be insured or uninsured. Please contact: www.lls.org/financial assistance for The Susan Lang Travel Assistance program call 877-557-2672.
We will continue to keep you updated as more financial assistance resources become available for this exciting new myeloma therapy.
If you have financial concerns or difficulties related to your myeloma treatment consider talking to a Myeloma Coach who has experience in financial issues. They can offer personalized support and help you find/utilize available resources. If you are willing to share your experience navigating myeloma (personally or as a caregiver) to help others- consider becoming a Myeloma Coach.
about the author
Diahanna is the Financial Program Manager for the HealthTree Foundation. She specializes in providing financial help, resources and education for multiple myeloma patients. As a professional financial consultant and former caregiver of her husband who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Diahanna perfectly understands the financial issues facing myeloma patients.