How much should medication cost, and are these treatments cost-effective and accessible for patients? In a press release, biopharmaceutical company Aurinia Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Aurinia”) shared that an independent review performed by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) found its therapy LUPKYNIS (voclosporin) to be an efficacious and cost-effective treatment option for patients with lupus nephritis. ICER shared its analysis and data in a 129-page Evidence Report.
In January 2021, LUPKYNIS became the first FDA-approved oral therapy for adults with active lupus nephritis. The therapy, which can be taken with other standard of care options, is a structurally modified CNI. It works by suppressing the immune system, preventing T-cells and cytokines from activating.
Its positive cost-effective rating was provided by ICER. The organization describes itself as:
[providing] an independent source of evidence review—free from financial conflicts of interest—to address… fundamental questions [like] what would a fair price be, based on the clinical evidence as well as patients’ perspectives about the outcomes that are most important to them?
By doing so, we help patients today and in the future by catalyzing a movement toward fair pricing, fair access, and future innovation across the entire US health care system.
In this case, the ICER analysis found that:
- Untreated or poorly treated lupus nephritis may cause irreversible kidney damage. Thus, a treatment is needed to address this.
- LUPKYNIS was cost-effective, especially for those of African or Asian descent who are, historically, more highly affected. Additionally, this cost-effectiveness could lower racial disparities in the medical community.
- Black individuals with lupus are nearly 4x more likely to develop lupus nephritis.
- When compared to lupus, lupus nephritis costs about 4x more to address and treat.
- LUPKYNIS, alongside current standard of care treatments, double the complete response amount.
Those who are pregnant or lactating should not use LUPKYNIS. Although the therapy is relatively well-tolerated, some adverse reactions have occurred. These include:
- Appetite loss
- High blood pressure
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Abdominal pain
- Mouth ulcers
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. In short, this means that the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. As the condition progresses, some patients may develop a complication called lupus nephritis, a form of kidney inflammation. In fact, an estimated 1 in every 3 patients with lupus will develop lupus nephritis. With this condition, autoantibodies begin to attack areas of the kidneys that filter out waste. Lupus is more common in females than males, and more common in those of African or Asian descent. Symptoms include:
- Dark and/or foamy urine
- Proteinuria (excess protein in the urine)
- High blood pressure
- Muscle and joint pain
- A butterfly-shaped red rash on the face
- Kidney failure
Learn more about lupus nephritis.