The Atlantic

The Cancer Patient Taking On High Drug Prices

It takes $440,000 of drugs a year to keep David Mitchell alive. Now he’s founded a nonprofit to make drugs more affordable.
Source: Eric Gaillard / Reuters

David Mitchell, 66, has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that is incurable but treatable. To stay alive, he takes $440,000 worth of drugs a year.

Mitchell counts himself as lucky. He has Medicare and can afford to buy Medicare Supplement Plan B, so his insurance covers his drugs. But not everyone is so fortunate, which is why instead of quietly retiring in his 60s, he founded a nonprofit to take on high drug prices. Patients for Affordable Drugs launched earlier this year, and it’s already making noise.  

On August 29, for example, just one day before the Food and Drug Administration approved a groundbreaking new cancer therapy called Kymriah from the Swiss pharma company Novartis, Mitchell was in a meeting with several Novartis executives to talk about its price.

Mitchell did not know then that FDA approval was so imminent, but he did know that whenever Kymriah did get to market, it would be astronomically expensive. Kymriah is the first in the new class of therapies known as CAR-T, in which a patients’ own T-cells are genetically engineered to go after cancer. Mitchell implored Novartis to price Kymriah fairly.

The next day, with

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