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By Joseph Walker
Amgen Inc. said it will sell the cholesterol drug Repatha only at a list price 60% lower than what the company had originally charged, in a bid to make the medicine more affordable to patients and kick-start sales.
Starting next year, Repatha will list for $5,850 a year for all insurers, the biotech said Thursday.
The move could help reduce the amount that patients pay for the drug at the pharmacy counter, and reduce the number of patients who don't fill their prescriptions because their copays are too expensive.
Amgen had priced Repatha for more than $14,000 a year upon its approval in 2015.
Analysts had thought Repatha would ring up billions of dollars in sales, but that hasn't happened in large part because insurers have restricted coverage of the drug because of its price. In the second quarter, Amgen reported just $91 million in sales from Repatha.
To encourage more use, Amgen last year created a new version of Repatha priced at $5,850 a year. The company temporarily still offered the original list price option of more than $14,000, which Amgen discounted heavily in the form of rebates.
Some health plans offered only the higher-priced Repatha, which meant patients faced bigger out-of-pocket costs.
Amgen said it kept selling the higher-priced product to allow time for insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to adjust to the loss of rebates. In it latest announcement, the company said it will stop selling the higher-priced version after Dec. 31.
Several pharmaceutical companies have cut the list prices of drugs in the past year in an effort to extend to patients the discounts they were already providing to pharmacy benefit managers, known as PBMs, which negotiate prices on behalf of insurers and employers.
Sanofi SA and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. sell a cut-rate version of their own anti-cholesterol medicine Praluent -- which competes with Repatha -- at a 60% discount to the original list price.
Gilead Sciences Inc. in January launched generic versions of two hepatitis C medicines priced at discounts of 68% and 62%, respectively, to their branded counterparts. Eli Lilly & Co. said in March that it would market a half-priced version of its diabetes medicine Humalog.
The price cuts have typically been for drugs that were already being discounted heavily with rebates. But rebates often failed to ease the direct costs shouldered by patients in Medicare Part D and high-deductible commercial health plans that require them to pay a percentage of a drug's list price before rebates are applied.
About half of Medicare Part D patients taking Repatha will have copays of less than $50 per prescription next year, Amgen said. By discontinuing the higher-priced version of the drug, the company said it expects to increase the portion of patients with copays of $50 or less.
Some Medicare patients are required to pay as much as $370 per month for Repatha, causing about three-quarters of patients to abandon their prescriptions, said BMO Capital Markets analyst Do Kim in a note to clients on Thursday.
He said Amgen's termination of the higher-priced product should increase the number of patients paying fixed $50 copays and bring down the abandonment rate closer to the 19% observed in commercial plans.
Write to Joseph Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 24, 2019 15:25 ET (19:25 GMT)
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