New Cholesterol Drugs Overpriced, Analysis Says

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 9, 2015 -- Two newly approved drugs to fight high cholesterol are extremely overpriced compared to the health benefits they give to patients, a new analysis finds.

The drugs in question, Repatha and Praluent, currently cost more than $14,000 per year, and because millions of Americans have high cholesterol, costs could be overwhelming, The New York Times reported.

The new report, from the nonprofit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), said that an annual cost of $3,615 to $4,811 would be more in line with the value they are expected to provide in preventing heart attacks and deaths.

However, at current pricing, "even if these drugs were used in just over 25 percent of eligible patients, then employers, insurers and patients would need to spend on average more than $20 billion a year," Dr. Steven Pearson, the founder and president of ICER, said in a statement.

In response, Amgen, the maker of Repatha, said in a statement, "we are concerned that ICER's review does not place value on addressing a significant unmet medical need, and its short-term budgetary focus will be used to create access barriers to innovative medicines like Repatha for appropriate patients."

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which has partnered with Sanofi to make Praluent, said it had not yet had time to review the new report. But a spokeswoman told the Times that "these calculations are complex, and a robust and open peer-review process is essential."

According to the Times, the exact benefit of Repatha and Praluent for heart patients may not be known until the results of large clinical trials arrive in 2017.

Dr. Troyen Brennan is chief medical officer of CVS Health, a pharmacy benefit manager. He told the Times that the new report is "basically right in line with our view of the medications -- that they have some value, but at their current prices they are way overpriced."