September 25, 2015 [cross-posted from the Field Clinic]
Praluent, a new cholesterol-lowering drug for people who need more than a statin, has been priced at about $40 a day by its suppliers, Regeneron and Sanofi. This compares to about $8 a day for Crestor, the most recent statin on the market, and pennies a day for generics. The introduction of a blockbuster drug at a budget-buster price has thrown Express Scripts, CVS/Caremark, and other drug insurers into the throes of serious anxiety. They warn that widespread use of the new medication at this price could bump up drug spending by as much as a third, which translates to $100 billion annually nationwide.
Is Praluent worth it? A new study has estimated the value of the benefits it provides relative to alternative treatments. It concludes that, if patients value the health benefits (as measured by improvements in both survival and quality of life) at $100,000 for a healthy year of life, the value would be only about 25% of the price. Some commentators have called for political pressure to lower prices and possibly even regulation, based on the results of this study. But that is the wrong conclusion.