Cholesterol Drug Kicks Off Another Debate About Costs by David Milberg

Cholesterol Drug Kicks Off Another Debate About Costs

Cholesterol Drug Kicks Off Another Debate About Costs by David Milberg

A much-ballyhooed medication proven to cut the risk of heart attacks is making a splash in the medical community after a test showed it could slash serious heart issues by up to 20 percent. But there’s a problem … a challenge that pops up in conversation every time someone mentions pharmaceuticals in the States: cost.

Questions of what a drug “should” cost plague pharmaceutical manufacturers and retailers, and Americans never tire of comparing what individual medications cost “here” versus “there.”

Due to many factors, drug costs are generally higher in the States versus Canada or Europe, especially for name brand drugs that target certain medical conditions. While the reasons for this are up for – and the topic of – continuous debate and, sometimes, outrage, there remains another factor drug companies have to take into consideration: competition.

With several major manufacturers all competing for attention and customers, catching the eye of doctors and delivering the best results for the most people is paramount … but it’s not always as easy as it is necessary. A recent Associated Press story covered this conundrum, discussing various “statin” drugs used to combat “bad cholesterol.” These drugs, like Lipitor and Crestor, are relatively inexpensive and they do lower bad cholesterol, but patients can’t always tolerate the side-effects.

Now there’s a new option on the market: Amgen’s Repatha, which is administered as a shot, and has proven to deliver success some are calling “unprecedented.” So, it works great, and it’s helping people … but there’s a catch: it’s not cheap. On average, Repatha can cost upwards of $14,000 a year, so even insured people are having trouble getting this treatment.

Insurers are not excited about paying for this medication when, they say, other cheaper drugs also work pretty well. Amgen is hoping this new study will be the evidence they need to make the case for Repatha as the go-to option for those suffering from high cholesterol and all the negative health impacts that entails.

But insurance companies and industry watchers are not as optimistic about the drug based on this study as some of the headlines are. One sticking point: the drug reduced cholesterol, but didn’t have any significant impact on heart-related deaths. In other words, it helped some people feel healthier but didn’t reduce the mortality rates of heart disease.

The conundrum has not been trumpeted in the press, and what has been written has people thinking Amgen created a miracle drug that could save their lives. That may be true, but the evidence is not as clear cut as some believe. Messaging is vital here. Someone will win the war of narratives in this situation, and it will be the group that connects most clearly and ably with consumers looking for a cure to their cholesterol troubles.

David Milberg is an experienced credit analyst in NYC. He is a long-time owner of Milberg Factors, a factoring and finance company with locations in New York, California, and North Carolina.