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Drug Of The Week: New Treatment For High Cholesterol Brings Big Costs

posted by Alicia Caramenico

on September 24, 2015

Today kicks off our new blog series Drug of the Week. Each installment will profile a medical treatment or new drug and its impact on patients and the health system.

cholesterol – PCSK9 Inhibitors

This week, we’re highlighting a new class of drugs to treat cholesterol – PCSK9 Inhibitors. While these drugs will help patients managing very high cholesterol, as you can see from the graphic above, they can carry a hefty price tag of $14,600 a year for each patient. It is estimated that within five years, approximately 2.6 million people could be prescribed these new therapies – with the potential to go even higher. These costs will continue to add up as each patient can expect to take these medications for the rest of his or her lifetime.

When accounting for potential off-label use of PCSK9 inhibitors, the financial burden on the U.S. health care system will grow. Dr. Steven D. Pearson, founder and president of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) recently reported:

“Even if these drugs were used in just over 25% of eligible patients, then employers, insurers, and patients would need to spend on average more than $20 billion a year for these drugs, a cost that would continue on into the future.”

So, what should we do to make sure patients have affordable access to important, live-saving treatments? Promotion of biosimilars is one powerful option. Biosimilar medications are clinically similar to FDA-approved biologic medications but less expensive.