- The combination of Yervoy (ipilumumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab) will cost more than $250,000 per year.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb is also testing the Yervoy/Opdivo combo for treatment of lung cancer.
- In a phase 3 study, patients treated with the combo had 8.9 months of progression-free survival (PFS), compared with 4.7 months in patients treated with Yervoy alone.
This newly approved combination therapy is costly, but not curative, however, it does extend PFS---an important marker in oncology. The treatment regimen is structured so that a patient starts therapy receiving the combo for 12 weeks, at a cost of $141,000, and then the patient continues taking Opdivo, at a cost of $12,500 per month, until the cancer progresses or the patient experiences unacceptable toxicity.
The side-effect profile for this combo is different than other non-immunocologic treatments, with the main problem being colitis. Beyond that, most people are worried about cost and the implication of more dual-combo treatments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This price tag is alarming everyone from payers, to physicians, to patients. But it's also important to note that the reality is this combo does not seem to push PFS to the one-year mark, meaning that many patients won't actually be on therapy for an entire year.