Competing Pharmaceutical Firms Slash Price on Cholesterol Drug to Improve Sales

Drug companies Sanofi SA and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc announced, early this week, that they each plan to drastically cut the US list price for their highly effective—and highly-priced—cholesterol drug Praluent.  Apparently, the drugmakers are dropping the price by as much as 60 percent for some patients, after rival Amgen Inc did that very same thing with its competing drug, Repatha. 

Both of these drugs have had trouble getting into the hands of patients who really need them.  Insurers were largely behind these roadblocks, attempting to limit patient access to expensive drugs (to reduce insurance provider expenses, of course.) Still, the drug(s) were originally approved with initial list prices in excess of $14,000 per year.  

In October, Amgen Inc cut Repatha’s price down to $5,850 per year.  This seems to have forced Sanofi SA and Regeneron to follow suit in order to remain competitive. That in mind, the partners say they expect this lower-priced Praluent to hit pharmacies sometime early next month.  

These two drugs—Praluent and Repatha—belong to a class of injectable biotech medicines known as PCSK9 inhibitors. These drugs dramatically lower bad LDL cholesterol which, in turn, reduces risk or heart attack.

In a statement, Regeneron chief Leonard Schleifer “In 2018, we lowered the Praluent net price for health plans that were willing to improve patient access and affordability. While lowering the net cost to payers did improve access, seniors who were prescribed Praluent were often still unable to afford it due to high co-pay costs or co-insurance at many Medicare Part D plans.”

As such, he goes on to say, the new price could save Medicare Part D patients upwards of $345, depending on their insurance plans. Indeed, the drug now falls in the far more reasonable price range of $25 to $150, based on insurance plan stipulations. 

Despite the obstacles they faced in previous years, Praluent and Repatha both performed quite well.  Last year, they generated approximately $307 million and $550 million in global sales, respectively.  These numbers certainly help encourage insurance companies, drug companies, and legislation to find ways to make such drugs accessible to as many patients as possible.  Fortunately, the drug companies are leading the charge this time by figuring out how to make their products more affordable.