Verona prices lung disease therapy above expectations at $2,950/month

By Pratik Jain

(Reuters) -Verona Pharma said on Thursday its therapy for a chronic and potentially fatal lung disease will have a wholesale price of $2,950 per month, above the estimated cost-effectiveness range by a drug-pricing watchdog.

The U.S. health regulator's assent on Wednesday for the therapy, branded as Ohtuvayre, gives patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) a new inhalable, non-steroid treatment.

The therapy is the first new treatment for the inflammatory condition in over a decade. Rivals Regeneron and Sanofi are also racing to gain approval for their anti-inflammatory drug Dupixent to treat COPD in certain patients.

COPD, which causes difficulty in breathing, affects nearly 16 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to government data.

Ohtuvayre's annual wholesale price of about $35,000 is above the cost-effectiveness threshold range of $7,500 to $12,700 estimated by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), an influential non-profit that evaluates clinical trials and drug prices.

Verona's analyses, examining various markers and by conducting multiple third-party pharmacoeconomic studies, come in significantly higher than ICER's estimate, the drugmaker said.

The list or wholesale price is not necessarily what a patient pays as it does not include insurance discounts.

"Price is about as expected as it's a novel product. It works in patients with nothing else to try, and avoids some side effects in other patients that might try other drugs," BTIG analyst Thomas Shrader said.

The therapy is designed to relax the muscles around the airways, making it easier to breathe, while reducing inflammation in the lungs without using steroids.

The therapy's pricing is above Wall Street expectations with the brokerage assuming $1,400 per month, Jefferies analyst Andrew Tsai said, adding that it could be linked to higher sales potential.

London-based Verona expects the therapy to be available in the third quarter in the United States.

The company's U.S.-listed shares were up 3% at $15.13.

(Reporting by Pratik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)