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David Lichtenstein

Davenport, Fla.

A new treatment could extend David’s life by 33%. But he can’t afford to take it.

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David Lichtenstein has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and likely has only 3 to 5 years to live. This summer, the FDA approved a new treatment called Redicava that could extend David’s life by 33 percent.

But he can’t afford to take it.

“It’s been approved by my insurance but my cost is $2,000 per infusion,” explains Lichtenstein, who is a former plumbing company manager and lives in Davenport, Fla. The treatment requires 14 days in a row of injections followed by a two-week break and then 10 treatments per month for the rest of his life. A year of treatment would cost him $265,000 out of pocket. "It’s very frustrating," says Lichtenstein. "If I could live longer … if that could add one more year."

Radicava is a so-called “orphan drug,” a federal designation that gives its manufacturer, Mitsubishi, extra incentives and market protections. It’s also a rule that is often gamed by the pharmaceutical industry to boost profits, say critics.

Read the rest of Tarbell’s series on Big Pharma and high drug costs.