(Thousand Oaks, Ca) Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) announced that it is making Repatha® (evolocumab), a high cholesterol medication for patients who are at risk for heart attacks and strokes, is now available at a reduced list price of $5,850 per year from $14,000 per year. The 60 percent reduction from the medicine’s original list price is meant to improve affordability by lowering patient copays, especially for Medicare patients.
Cuts to the cost of its marquee cholesterol-fighter came after patients struggled to afford it and drug makers face increased scrutiny of their pricing practices. It also reflects Amgen’s support for the goal of President Trump and his Administration to lower the price of drugs for U.S. consumers. In May of this year, the Company decided not to proceed with price increases on its medicines that had been planned for July. No price increases on any Amgen medicines have been taken since then or are planned for the balance of the year.
“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,” said Robert A. Bradway, chairman and chief executive officer at Amgen. “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.”
Repatha is part of a class of injectable medications intended to reduce complications of high cholesterol including heart attack and stroke. The drugs are meant to be taken indefinitely. The steep price has resulted in slower than expected adoption for what was expected be a sure-fire blockbuster.
Bradway noted that an estimated 75 percent of Medicare patients prescribed a PCSK9 inhibitor never actually fill their prescriptions, mainly due to high out-of-pocket costs.
“Since turning 65 and going on Medicare I have had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life – can I afford to stay on Repatha, the only thing, even after nine stents and numerous statins, that has worked to lower my cholesterol?” says Repatha patient Bob C. from Boca Raton, Fl. “Given my family history of heart disease, today’s announcement means that I can continue taking a therapy that has been so effective for me.”
Amgen is making Repatha available at a reduced list price by introducing new National Drug Codes (NDCs). SureClick®, the most commonly used delivery system, will be available immediately; the Pre-Filled Syringe and Pushtronex® (monthly, on-body infusor) delivery systems will be available in the next 2-3 months. The lower priced Repatha is identical to the Repatha currently available.
“This is a unique solution for a unique situation,” said Murdo Gordon, executive vice president of Global Commercial Operations at Amgen.
Throughout 2018, Amgen has been offering payers significant rebates on Repatha in exchange for improved patient access through, for example, more simple utilization management criteria. The Company now has agreements in place with payers representing greater than 65 percent of Repatha’s commercial revenue.
“Unfortunately, higher rebates don’t typically result in lower out-of-pocket costs for patients, especially for Medicare patients,” Gordon said. “We are confident today’s action will address this challenge.”
To allow for a smooth transition to these lower-priced options, Amgen will continue offering Repatha at its original list price for a period of time, with an expectation of discontinuing the original list price of Repatha by the end of 2020 or sooner.
“While we hope more patients will benefit from swift adoption of these lower-priced options, it is ultimately a payer decision,” Gordon said.
“At Express Scripts, our goal is to ensure affordability and ensure patients get the novel medicines they need,” said Steve Miller, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer of Express Scripts. “With a new lower list price for Repatha, Amgen is taking an important step forward to help payers be better positioned to provide breakthrough medicines and help people achieve better outcomes.”
Patients or physicians who need help understanding these changes can contact RepathaReady® (1-844-REPATHA). The RepathaReady program provides a comprehensive suite of services to help patients and providers, including a Repatha $5 co-pay card for eligible commercially insured patients, insurance coverage support and injection training. Amgen also provides patient assistance for its medicines marketed in the U.S. in a variety of ways, including free medicines through the Amgen Safety Net Foundation for qualifying individuals with no or limited drug coverage.
Elevated “bad cholesterol” or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for heart attack and stroke prevention. According to a recent Centers of Disease Control (CDC) report, 39 million adults could benefit from managing their cholesterol. Within this population, patients with established cardiovascular disease are at greatest risk for heart attack and stroke.
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