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Amgen slashes price of $14,000-a-year cholesterol drug

October 24, 2018

FILE - This undated product image provided by Amgen Inc. shows the cholesterol drug Repatha. Amgen Inc. said Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, that it is immediately cutting the price of Repatha by 60 percent, from about $14,000 to $5,850 per year. (Robert Dawson/Amgen via AP, File)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The maker of an expensive cholesterol drug is slashing the list price, which should make it more affordable for patients.

Amgen Inc. said Wednesday it is immediately cutting the price of Repatha by 60 percent, from about $14,000 to $5,850 per year.

The move could help boost Amgen’s 60 percent share in the U.S. market. The reduction comes after rivals Sanofi and Regeneron in May slashed what they charge prescription plans — though not the list price — for their similar cholesterol medication, Praluent.

Patients, insurers, politicians and others have criticized escalating drug prices that are putting medicines out of reach for many people.

Amgen CEO Robert Bradway said the price cut will particularly help Medicare beneficiaries. Many now face out-of-pocket costs of $370 per month. That will drop to $25 to $150 per month, depending on their specific prescription plan.

Repatha and Praluent are prescribed to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke by lowering cholesterol levels.

The two self-injected drugs are meant for patients who have sky-high cholesterol levels, can’t tolerate side effects of older cholesterol drugs called statins, like Lipitor, or haven’t been able to reduce cholesterol levels enough with statins. Generic statin pills cost pennies a day, so prescription plans have restricted how many patients are approved for Repatha or Praluent.

“Our concern is that there are too many patients having heart attacks and strokes that could be prevented,” Bradway said.

Besides Medicare beneficiaries, many patients with commercial insurance will benefit from much lower out-of-pocket cost for Repatha. They typically pay a percentage of the list price, often 20 percent or more. Hit by sticker shock at the pharmacy counter, many abandon the prescription there because they can’t cover their costs, according to a study published last month in the journal JAMA Cardiology and conducted by researchers at Amgen and Duke Clinical Research Institute.

Amgen said some prescription plans may opt not to change their pricing on Repatha until current contracts with Amgen end, so some patients won’t see price cuts right away.

Repatha and Praluent were initially expected to bring in billions of dollars in annual revenue, but have fallen far short of forecasts, forcing their makers to offer some patients coupons covering nearly all of their copayment and to cut deals with prescription plans aimed at getting coverage approved for more patients.

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Follow Linda A. Johnson on Twitter: @LindaJ_onPharma

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The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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