money and a syringe, afford Repatha, high-priced medicines

Two years ago, the FDA approved a new type of cholesterol-lowering medicine. It sends “bad” LDL cholesterol into the basement, lowering it even more than potent statin drugs. But at the time, the FDA did not know whether such PCSK9 inhibitors, evolocumab (Repatha) and alirocumab (Praluent), would prevent heart attacks and save lives. One study that was published recently has answered some questions, but leaves a big one: can you afford Repatha?

A Pricy Prescription to Lower Cholesterol:

Q. My cardiologist prescribed Repatha. This drug lowered my LDL cholesterol significantly, but I cannot keep taking it because of its cost. My insurance will cover Repatha but I have a copay of $488 per month.

I’ve tried every statin on the market and have experienced bad reactions to every single one of them. What can I do now?

What Is Repatha?

A. Evolocumab (Repatha) is a new drug that lowers bad LDL cholesterol dramatically. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine (online, March 17, 2017) demonstrated that this injected medication reduced the risk of a heart attack or stroke when added to a statin. It did not save lives, however.

The FDA has only approved Repatha for use in conjunction with other cholesterol-lowering drugs. We suspect, however, that many physicians are prescribing it for people like you who cannot tolerate statins.

What Does Repatha Cost?

Repatha has a list price of around $14,000 per year. As a result, it’s not surprising that your copay is so high.

How Can You Afford Repatha?

The manufacturer, Amgen, offers financial assistance to patients like you who find the co-pay on their insurance unaffordable. If you go to Repatha.com you could sign up for the program. It would require you to pay the first $5 on your monthly co-pay, and the program would pay up to $5500 a year. To learn more, you could call the company at 844-737-2842.

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  1. Martha
    NC
    Reply

    If this is the drug I am seeing advertised on TV, it states it must be taken with the highest possible dose of statin available! How can that be good for anyone, especially if they are already experiencing severe reactions to statins.

  2. Richard
    Los Angeles
    Reply

    The question is whether severely suppressing cholesterol can cause of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s, since cholesterol fuels your brain.

  3. Linda L
    San Marcos, TX
    Reply

    My doctor prescribed Praluent for me last year and my total cholesterol dropped from 230 to 150 in a very short time. The specialty pharmacy found a program for me that eliminated the $400 (!) deductible per month AFTER my Medicare drug program paid their part.

    Sadly, the program lasted only until the end of December 2016, and now I’m stuck at 230 again. Statins do not work for me…NOTHING else has worked for me. I’m going to look into the Repatha program and see if I can qualify for that.

  4. Chris
    Wisconsin
    Reply

    Perhaps the bigger question should be, is “why would I take a PCSK9 inhibitor like Repatha or Praluent?” When neither has PROVEN to prevent heart disease or heart attacks. Google the phrase “The effect of Repatha® on heart problems, such as heart attacks, stroke, or death, has not been determined” or if you’re on Praluent just substitute the names…scroll to the bottom of the pages, and in black and white there it is on the Product Literature.

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      The recent Repatha study did show that it has a modest benefit for preventing heart attacks–but no evidence it saves lives.

  5. Sandi H.
    Wisconsin
    Reply

    My husband has been using Rapatha for 6 months. It has decreased his cholestrol very fast. After the first month of injections, his HDL/LDL numbers are down. He could not take a oral statin without feeling achy.He does get help with paying for this drug from AMGEN.Anyone interested in this expensive drug should have their physician help with getting paperwork completed for this assistance. For him,right now it was the right drug.

  6. Uffe Ravnskov
    Lund, Sweden
    Reply

    The Repatha trial was originally planned to go on for 4 years, but as the number of heart events was significantly lower in the treatment group already after 26 months, the authors decided to stop the trial.

    But the number of deaths, both from heart disease and from other causes, had increased! Not with statistically significance, but it might have become significant if the trial had continued. A relevant question is therefore: Did they stop the trial because the total number of events had become significantly lower in the treatment group, or because the number of deaths was increasing? How do they explain that 444 died in the treatment group, but only 426 among the untreated? I mean, if “bad” high LDL-cholesterol was the cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease, then we should expect that a 59% lowering of this “poisonous” molecule should lower mortality, not increasing it. The reason is of course that a high level of LDL-cholesterol is not poisonous; it is beneficial, as we have documented in a review of 19 studies including more than 68,000 people above the age of 60 published in BMJ Open (http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/bmjopen/6/6/e010401.full.pdf). Almost all studies found that elderly people with the highest levels of the “bad” LDL-cholesterol live the longest; even longer than those on statin treatment; no study found the opposite. A reasonable question is therefore: Why should we lower the bad cholesterol if those with the highest values live the longest?

  7. Martha
    Florida
    Reply

    There are a couple of things that I don’t understand about these types of medical issues. So called, “normal” levels are usually listed in a range since no two people are alike. What is “normal” for me may be way too high for someone else. Unfortunately, I don’t react well to a lot of medications so I try to take only the ones that I truly need (antibiotic e.g.). My doctor insists that I get my cholesterol below 200. What happens to the body when cholesterol levels get too low? It is obviously a needed element in the blood or the body wouldn’t produce it? Could we be on a bit of a merry go round with this? The drugs suppress production of cholesterol so the body works overtime to produce it to the levels it thinks it should be? After 4 visits with a dietician, she was convinced that my diet had no connection to my cholesterol. She asked if she could share my diet with other patients to prove to them it is possible to eat right. I get plenty of exercise as I am a marathoner (a walking marathoner, but just training for a race is more walking that a lot of people ever do). I’ve tried them all; simvastatin, Lipitor, Crestor, Lovaza and niaspan and the resulting decrease (10 points) was not worth the soreness, the bone pain, the loss of appetite, the insomnia, the brain fog (most of which my doctor said were not listed side effects so I must be imagining them) So, other than finding a doctor that understands and will work with me (I’ve tried – no luck yet) what else can I do? I am 66, female, have asthma and osteoarthritis (which is slowing me down a bit on the exercise front) with a cholesterol level of 245.

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