Teenagers and kids with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a severe neuromuscular disease, will now be able to get insurance coverage in Korea for Biogens Spinraza, the first approved therapy for the rare genetic disorder.
As of Oct. 1, the national health insurance coverage for Spinraza has been expanded in Korea to include those who had an onset of SMA symptoms after the age of three.
Previous to the expansion, only patients diagnosed with SMA before the age of 3 had been eligible for insurance coverage for the expensive treatment.
As of the end of 2022, about 14,000 patients across the world received Spinraza treatment, one-third of them being adult patients, said Hwang Se-eun, general manager of Biogens Korean operation, during the companys first press conference in the country held in western Seoul on Thursday.
As a result of various efforts, the insurance coverage for Spinraza has been expanded as of Oct. 1 to include patients who had an onset of SMA symptoms at the age of 18 and less, said Hwang.
Biogen, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, established a local operation in Korea in 2017.
Biogens Spinraza is the first treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for SMA treatment, a rare genetic condition that affects motor neurons. As motor neurons control voluntary muscle movement, patients with SMA experience weakness of the muscles and movement problems.
There are four types of SMA, categorized based on a patients age at the time of onset.
With the latest coverage expansion, patients with type 1, 2 and 3 SMA which accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the total are now eligible for insurance benefits for Spinraza prescription.
Ever since Spinraza was first included in the national reimbursement list as an SMA treatment in 2019, many patients have had the opportunity to access the treatment, but there has been unmet demand for patients, families and medical practitioners regarding rare diseases such as SMA, said Choi Jung-nam, Biogen Koreas medical lead in neuromuscular disease, Thursday, adding that the enhanced access to Spinraza will be able to address such unmet needs.
Biogen Korea provides patient care programs to inform patients about the disease and help them with the administrative process for insurance payback claims and more.