Atopic dermatitis patients demand reimbursement for Sanofi’s biological drug

Kim Yun-mi  Published 2019.06.12  13:29  Updated 2019.06.12 13:29


Korean patients with severe atopic dermatitis gathered in front of the National Assembly on Tuesday to demand a faster proceeding to allow health insurance coverage for Sanofi’s biological agent Dupixent (dupilumab).

The Association of Patients with Severe Atopic Dermatitis met with Rep. Lee Myoung-su, head of the National Assembly's Health and Welfare Committee, and officials of the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA) to push for the Dupixent reimbursement. The patients also staged one-person protests in front of the National Assembly.

Seong Min-ji, a 22-year-old patient with severe atopic dermatitis, stages a one-person protest to demand health insurance coverage for biological drug Dupixent in front of the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Dupixent is the only biologic agent approved as a monotherapy or a combination therapy with a topical corticosteroid for patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis who are not adequately controlled with a topical treatment or who are not recommended to use atopical therapy.

Dupixent arrived in the Korean market over a year ago, but it is still highly priced. It costs about 1 million won ($845.8) for a single injection of Dupixent 300mg.

A patient receives typically the first 600mg and 300mg every two weeks. Annually, the treatment costs about 250 million won for a patient.

Seong Min-ji, a 22-year-old patient with severe atopic dermatitis, also participated in the one-person protest on Tuesday. Showing her diary, she was desperate to let other people know how painful it is to live as a patient with such skin disease and to get health insurance coverage for Dupixent.

“All over my body, dead skins keep falling. I can barely move because the skin is burning, sore, and oozing. The itching is all over my body, and sometimes I wish I could die,” Seong said. “I am always trapped in my anxiety, thinking what if I could not function as a social human being or remain dependent on my parents without a job for a lifetime.”

Seong’s diary demonstrates not only physical and psychological sufferings from atopic dermatitis since childhood but prejudices from people around her.

It also described the side effects of steroids and immunosuppressive drugs such as hair loss, lethargy due to repeated symptoms, depression, and anxiety disorder, which eventually led to the discontinuation of her study and leave of absence from school.

“This disease does not kill me but eats up my life and pushes me over the edge. We atopic dermatitis patients want to live a life as hard as we can do to achieve something, to love, and to challenge continuously, like normal people,” Seong said.

The patient group plans to continue one-person protests until Friday and holds a rally on July 4.

“A HIRA official said they were at the final stage for price negotiations with Sanofi, as the HIRA had already concluded that Dupixent could benefit from insurance coverage,” the association said. “I heard that the drug could become reimbursable as early as in December.”

Sanofi Genzyme, the supplier of Dupixent in Korea, said the company has been in talks with the government for reimbursement for the drug since winning approval in March last year.

“We will do our best to discuss reimbursement with the government so that we can improve Dupixent's accessibility for patients who have long suffered from the disease and the absence of treatment options,” the company said.

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