Amgen cuts price of PCSK9 inhibitor by 60%

Amgen is slashing the list price of its PCSK9 inhibitor evolocumab (Repatha) by almost 60 percent, the company announced Oct. 24.

The reduction will bring down the annual cost from $14,100 to $5,850, which the company expects will lower patient copays—particularly for Medicare patients—and improve access to the cholesterol-lowering medication.

“Cardiovascular disease is one of the country’s most significant health challenges, and every 40 seconds someone in America has a heart attack or stroke,” Robert Bradway, chairman and CEO of Amgen, said in a statement. “Repatha can help to address this significant public health issue, but concerns over out-of-pocket costs have proven to be a barrier to its use for too many patients. We want to make sure that every patient who needs Repatha gets Repatha.”

Trial evidence has demonstrated that PCSK9 inhibitors can lower cholesterol levels when statins alone aren’t successful. But the high cost of the medication has been a barrier to patients receiving them, and it’s been difficult to prove their cost-effectiveness and overcome burdensome preauthorization hurdles imposed by insurance companies.

Bradway told CNBC the price reduction should lower Medicare patients’ copays for evolocumab from about $370 a month to between $25 and $150.

The change comes after the price of a competing drug, alirocumab (Praluent), was dropped through an agreement between manufacturers Regeneron and Sanofi and the pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts. With that deal, Regeneron and Sanofi agreed to provide a larger rebate to Express Scripts in exchange for simpler preauthorization forms and alirocumab being the only PCSK9 inhibitor being offered in Express Scripts’ largest formulary plan, which covers 25 million members.

That deal dropped the annual price of Praluent from $14,600 a year to between $4,500 and $8,000.

Despite PCSK9 inhibitors’ demonstrated efficacy for lowering cholesterol and preventing cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes, the drugs have made less money than expected due to access restrictions. CNBC reported that 2017 revenues for Praluent and Repatha were $195 million and $319 million, respectively.

The American Heart Association applauded Amgen’s efforts to lower the costs of evolocumab.

“We believe that ensuring patients have affordable access to the care they need is a moral obligation, and we are heartened by Amgen’s substantial commitment to reduce the costs of their proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitor as part of this larger effort to shift the focus to the value of treatment and not simply its costs,” the AHA said in a statement.