Higher Price of Cholesterol Drugs Also have A High Cost to Mortality Risk

New data shows that incidents of stroke and heart attack—and other heart problems—are more likely among patients who have been denied access to the newest cholesterol drugs. These drugs are called PCSK9 inhibitors and, specifically, statistics indicate that when patients are not able to take these drugs, they could be at a 16 percent higher risk for a heart-related health crisis if their prescription was rejected than if they were able to have it covered for an entire year. 

In addition, the data shows how patients who don’t fill prescriptions they already have are at a 21 percent higher risk for these heart-related emergency.  While the study does not necessarily indicate the reason patients would not fill their life-saving prescriptions, the researchers theorize many cannot afford the copay. 

Study co-author Kelly Myers explains, “One of the most surprising things we saw in this study was a difference in risk in as little as 11.5 months of therapy. That means there is a beneficial effect in less than a year.”

She goes on to say that this real-world evidence highlights that more than eight-thousand individuals who are currently being treated for cardiovascular disease or familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) had a visibly higher risk for heart attacks and strokes when their PCSK9 therapy prescription was rejected or had gone unfilled. Myers advises, then, that coverage decisions that are not already taking into account any patient’s potential for elevated risk—particularly in regards to genetic conditions like FH—note a failure of our health system in the prevention of heart attacks, stroke, and death.

The drug in question carries quite the heft price tag of $14,000 per year (during the study period of 2015 to 2017).  Last year, manufacturers had worked out a price cut to two leading PCSK9 inhibitors—Praluent (alirocumab) and Repatha (evolocumab)–but that still only brought the price down to a range of $4,500 to $8,000 per year.  

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