December 15, 2017 Press Releases

Cancer Patients Dying Due to High Yescarta Price

WASHINGTON, DC — The following statement was issued by David Mitchell, a patient with incurable blood cancer and the president of Patients For Affordable Drugs, regarding reports of patients dying while waiting to receive Gilead’s $373,000 cancer drug, Yescarta.

“My heart is breaking for these patients and their families. This situation is tragic, infuriating, and exactly what we were afraid of.”

Taxpayers paid to invent this drug, and now it’s so wildly overpriced that we can’t afford it.”

“Gilead must lower the price of Yescarta. As a person who looks forward to the potential of CAR-T, we cannot allow fellow patients to die while this groundbreaking treatment sits on the shelf.”

“Patients and our health care system are unprepared to pay prices approaching a half-million dollars per treatment for a drug that was invented using taxpayer money. NIH must consider changing its practices. Otherwise, it is inventing drugs that will bankrupt patients and our system.”


  • “Five people have received the treatment, called Yescarta, at the 15 cancer hospitals authorized to administer it in the U.S., the hospitals told Bloomberg. Waiting lists for the $373,000 treatment have grown to at least 200 people, shrinking only as some very sick patients have died.” [Bloomberg, 12/14/17]
  • According to Kite> (now owned by Gilead) executives who commercialized the drug, the base price should be $150,000. “Kite Chief Financial Officer Cynthia Butitta said that its financial models set a base case price at $150,000 per treatment, but that the actual price will depend more on survival rates and the drug’s efficacy.” [Reuters, 1/15/15]
  • Taxpayer funding: U.S. taxpayers invested more than $200 million in the science of CAR-T. NIH Director Francis Collins said that CAR-T “is grounded in initial basic research supported by NIH.” In fact, when Gilead bought Kite, it purchased at least two key patents in which NIH still has an interest. The New York Times reported specifically on NIH matching some of Kite’s research investments to develop these drugs.
  • R&D Costs: Kite disclosed that it spent $317 million on R&D between 2012 and June 30, 2017. That period is after the publication of a key research paper demonstrating the viability of CAR-T, reducing dramatically the risk for Kite compared to the early taxpayer investment. It has also been reported that Kite invested $30 million in a plant that can produce 5,000 doses per year.
  • How much money does the company need to recoup on this R&D and other investments in order to make a fair return? We believe the drug is overpriced by at least $225,000.


Patients For Affordable Drugs is the only independent national patient organization focused exclusively on achieving policy changes to lower the price of prescription drugs.