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Express Scripts in talks to distribute million-dollar gene therapies

American pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co. is looking to become the exclusive distributor for three U.S.-based gene therapy makers' specialty medicines, Reuters reported.

The company's chief medical officer, Steve Miller, told Reuters in an interview that they are in talks with Bluebird Bio Inc., BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. and Spark Therapeutics Inc. to distribute the biotechnology companies' hemophilia drugs when they are commercialized in 2019 and 2020.

BioMarin's hemophilia A gene therapy valoctocogene roxaparvovec, also known as BMN 270, is in two late-stage clinical trials where patient enrollment is ongoing. In another phase 1/2 study, the therapy showed promising results and helped in reducing bleeding events.

Spark Therapeutics is developing SPK-8011 as a treatment for hemophilia A and is collaborating with Pfizer Inc. on the development of a hemophilia B therapy called SPK-9001. Both treatments have shown promising results in early clinical studies and the company plans to advance the development of the drug into phase 3 trials.

Analysts project that the drugs could be priced at $1 million to $1.5 million, said Reuters.

Hemophilia is an inherited genetic disorder that affects about 20,000 people in the U.S. It impairs the body's ability to make blood clots, a process needed to stop bleeding.

Miller told Reuters that working with biotech companies "can help their expensive therapies succeed commercially." Express Scripts has distribution deals for Spark's $850,000 eye drug Luxturna, Biogen Inc.'s genetic muscular disorder drug Spinraza, and Novartis AG's cancer drug Kymriah, Reuters said in its report.

St. Louis-based Express Scripts' traditional business includes managing prescription claims for its clients and the company is in the process of being acquired by Cigna Corp. in a $67 billion deal.