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Novartis CEO Has One New Breakthrough Drug in the Medicine Cabinet: But It Could Be Costly

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that the $4 million figure is the cost-effective value for Novartis’s gene therapy drug, not the price.

The new CEO of Novartis (NVS) says his goal is to transform the giant Swiss drugmaker into a “breakthrough medicines company.”

Just 10 months into his new role, Vasant Narasimhan, a physician-scientist by training, now has one of those transformative drugs in Novartis’ medicine cabinet. Thanks to an $8 billion acquisition of U.S. biotech company AveXis earlier this year, Novartis acquired the gene therapy drug. Narasimhan tells Fortune that the drug, which goes by the name AVXS-101, saves lives of kids with a deadly disease called spinal muscular atrophy.

The good news: it takes only one injection of the miracle drug. The exact price has not been set, but the cost effective value could be $4 million or more. In other words, that’s the way the industry explains the cost to the health care system for treating a patient’s disease.

This is hardly a good time to talk about multi-million dollar drugs given how everyone from President Trump to American consumers have been complaining about skyrocketing drug prices. But Narasimhan says he’s “prepared” to face the critics and he defends the possible $4 million cost saying it’s “cost effective for society”.

“You have to be courageous in situations like this. You have to be courageous to champion a new era of gene therapy,” he says. “But my bet is that over time people will see that this actually is a great deal for society. We’re actually saving society money.”

Watch the video above for more from my interview with Narasimhan.