Low Cholesterol, High Cost.

More about Praluent and PCSK9 Inhibitors

With the flood of commercials that lead many of us to self-diagnose or question if we might be better served by a new medicine versus our current prescription, it’s tough to follow the incredible advancements made every day in healthcare. While MJ doesn’t want to inundate you with information each time there’s a new drug on the horizon, there is a recent breakthrough worth sharing.

The big news this time around involves a promising new class of cholesterol lowering drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors, which block a protein of the same name that regulates cholesterol. One such drug, Praluent, also known as alirocumab, has already been endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration, and another drug, Repatha, or evolocumab, is expected to secure approval by the end of August. As a recent article in The New York Times reported, Praluent reduced levels of the so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol by 40 percent or more—even among patients already taking statins, a common current standard of treatment. Forty percent. No wonder many cardiologists consider this new class of drugs a significant advancement in care.

So that’s the good news. But of course, you know there’s more…

Praluent is also quite expensive. In fact, the list price is about $14,600 a year, substantially higher than the $7,000 to $12,000 many analysts and healthcare experts had been anticipating. Why so much? The head of research and development for the drug maker, Sanofi, explained to The Times that, “We came to a price that is reflective of value, not what the market will bear.” Translation: it works, so it’s worth it.

Of course, the high price means use of the drug will be more closely scrutinized for each patient’s insurance approval. As the Times article reports, the FDA has thus far only approved Praluent for patients “who have had heart attacks, strokes, chest pain or related conditions, or have a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol and who require additional lowering of LDL despite taking the highest dose of a statin that they can tolerate.”

That means Praluent will not typically be a first line drug. It’s likely that physicians will continue to use statins as a primary defense against high cholesterol—they’ve already proven effective. Of course, the best patients are educated patients, so we believe arming you with information is the right thing to do even if you don’t fall into the “Praluent approved” category. Should current or future treatments fail to decrease your own cholesterol levels, you now know there is an alternative out there.

And of course, MJ will continue to provide updates on Praluent and other drugs that may be introduced in the future, particularly when the news intersects insurance and coverage options. Here’s to your health!