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New Heart Drugs Cost More Than Expected

Pricing fuels debate about whether modern medications are too expensive

Two of the most anticipated new heart drugs to be launched in recent years have been priced well above analysts’ expectations, fueling the debate about whether modern medications cost too much, according to a report from Reuters.

Alirocumab (Praluent, Sanofi/Regeneron) and sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto, Novartis) are treatments that represent significant advances for millions of patients at risk of serious heart problems, but their positioning in the marketplace was always likely to be contentious since they offer more-effective alternatives to cheap, off-patent drugs, columnist Ben Hirschler writes.

The manufacturers have argued that the medical benefits of their products and their ability to keep patients out of expensive hospital beds make them cost-effective choices for health care providers.

Sanofi and Regeneron have announced that alirocumab would cost $14,600 a year, well above the roughly $10,000 that investors had expected.

A spokesman at Deutsche Bank told Reuters that the high official price of alirocumab would allow Sanofi and Regeneron to offer generous rebates in what is expected to be a competitive market, resulting in a net price that could be discounted by 30% to 50% over time.

The two companies are competing against Amgen’s evolocumab (Repatha), another proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitor, which is still awaiting a green light from the FDA, although it was approved last week in Europe.

On July 7, Novartis set a price of $4,560 a year for sacubitril/valsartan –– nearly 50% higher than many analysts had expected.

Novartis does not face direct competition to sacubitril/valsartan, but the company has said it will offer discount deals, including basing the amount paid on patients’ clinical outcomes.

Although the new heart drugs cost nowhere near as much as many modern cancer drugs, often priced at more than $100,000 per year, their impact on budgets is expected to be considerable since they are designed for lifetime use.

Source: Reuters; May 27, 2015.


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