Pricey, effective leukemia therapy now covered by health insurance in Japan

A cutting edge cancer therapy from Swiss pharmaceutical maker Novartis that genetically modifies a patient’s own immune cells to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia is now covered by Japan’s national health insurance system.

The drug, Kymriah, is more expensive than any other cancer treatment covered by Japan’s health care system, which generally pays about 70 percent of healthcare services for residents. Each treatment costs more than $300,000. Coverage will be limited to leukemia patients in children and young adults who have not responded to other treatments. Kymriah is already being manufactured and sold in the U.S. and parts of Europe.