Bluebird bio has announced plans to end commercial operations in Europe, claiming that it has been too difficult to convince E.U. member governments to pay high prices up front for treatments that may lead to much higher savings for health care systems later. The company has decided to focus on the U.S., where its therapies are more likely to be reimbursed at the desired prices.
In April, bluebird bio removed its beta thalassemia gene therapy Zynteglo from the German market. The biotech company sought payments of $1.8 million per treatment, but the government offered to pay $790,000, later increasing the reimbursement to $950,000 if all patients derived benefit and did not need chronic blood transfusions after treatment.
“Governments and payers have not yet recognized and appropriately priced the innovative value of our transformative gene therapies,” said Andrew Obenshain, president of the severe genetics disease unit at bluebird bio. “As a small innovative company, we cannot afford to wait it out. Turning to the U.S., there are a significant number of patients in need and a clear path to reimbursement.”