Sage Therapeutics should be able to price its experimental depression pill at the "value it'll provide" for patients despite industry-wide political scrutiny over the cost of drugs, CEO Jeff Jonas told CNBC on Wednesday.
High prescription drug costs have become a rare bipartisan issue, as health care remains a top concern for voters in the upcoming November 2020 presidential election. The biopharmaceutical firm said Wednesday it is advancing its experimental oral drug, known as SAGE-217, for treatment-resistant depression. The drug could be lucrative for Sage, as roughly 20% of people with depression don't respond to available treatments.
When asked on CNBC's "Power Lunch" how the company expects to price the drug amid intense drug price rhetoric from Washington, Jonas said, "Every company pays attention to macro factors."
"We believe if [the drug] continues to perform the way it has, with rapid onset and durable effects, and not requiring chronic pharmacotherapy, that it really could be a game-changer," Jonas said. "It's premature to talk about pricing in that respect. But we feel we should be able to price it for the value it'll provide for patients."
In May, Novartis gave similar reasoning on the pricing for its drug treating spinal muscular atrophy. But it's quite different: a gene therapy for a muscle-wasting disease and leading genetic cause of infant mortality. That therapy, Zolgensma, is a one-time treatment. And, at $2.1 million, it's the most expensive drug in the world.
Earlier this year, Sage got approval from the Food and Drug Administration for Zulresso, the first postpartum depression drug. The drug, an injection, is designed to reduce symptoms of depression by targeting receptors of a neurotransmitter called GABA.
Sage's stock is up more than 82% year to date.