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Why Amgen Is Lowering the Price of Cholesterol Drug Repatha By 60%

Pharmaceutical maker Amgen will lower the sticker price of its cholesterol drug Repatha (generic: evolocumab) by 60% to $5,850 a year, it announced Wednesday. Repatha is a PCSK9 inhibitor shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.

Last year, however, investors punished Amgen (AMGN) —for worse-than-expected performance in a large Repatha trial. Amgen reports that Repatha sold $271 million in the first half of 2018, despite earlier predictions of multi-billion-dollar sales, Reuters reports.

Earlier this year, competitors Regeneron (REGN) and Sanofi (SNYNF) gave a rebate on Praluent, a cholesterol drug of the same class as Repatha, from $14,600 to between $4,500 and $8,000 a year in exchange for preferred access to pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts’ plan members. Amgen’s new pricing may force Express Script to re-evaluate, CNBC reports.

The drugmakers already offered privately insured patients such rebates on the condition that the insurers lower the bar for approving reimbursements for their drugs. However, the deals leave out patients covered by federal plans such as Medicare, as well as people without insurance. Medicare patients are half the potential U.S. market of 3.4 million people, according to Amgen. Its new price will apply to Medicare users. Only 50,000 people worldwide are using Repatha now.

Because of how the U.S. drug pricing market works, Amgen will list two prices for Repatha through 2020, to conserve existing distribution channels while buyers switch to the new price.