The way the media is telling the story, it’s your money… or your life.
Fork over around $14K a year for the “miracle” cholesterol drug Repatha — or somehow convince your insurance company to cover the injection — and you can stop a deadly heart attack or stroke in its tracks!
But you might as well keep your money in the bank.
Because instead of admitting defeat, drugmaker Amgen will likely be trying every trick in the book to get you to roll up your sleeve and plunk down your hard-earned cash for this incredibly dangerous dud.
If it came out tomorrow that all the major media outlets were actually PR agents for Big Pharma, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
Last week’s headlines were all aglow with stories about the lifesaving potential of Repatha, the highly risky cholesterol drug the FDA approved two years ago (called a PCSK9 inhibitor). If only this med didn’t cost so much, more lives could be saved!
But if you want the real story on Repatha, there are only two places to look: the stock market, where investors check out drugs a whole lot more carefully than most patients do, and the latest Repatha study itself.
First, let’s follow the money.
Wall Street tracks drug-study results very carefully. And any research that reveals some flaw or any indication that a med won’t sell, won’t work or is unusually unsafe will send pharma stock plummeting.
And that’s exactly what happened to Amgen’s shares when the new Repatha study came out last week.
Actually, as an investment expert in the health-care industry noted, that clinical study on Repatha was so important that the numbers released “sent shockwaves through the entire biotech industry.”
But “shockwaves” is putting it mildly. This was more like an earthquake.
The news was so bad, in fact, that not only did Amgen’s stock “take a dive,” but a whole bunch of drugmakers who produce other cholesterol-lowering meds saw their stocks plummet as well!
Now, here’s where things start to get a bit odd.
News outlets spun the story better than Rumpelstiltskin turned straw into gold. The most common refrain was how the med prevents heart attacks, but still costs so much, patients need to make some hard choices.
Of course, Amgen tried to have its study sound as promising as possible. It sent out a press release with lots of big, bold type using terms like “remarkable” and “meaningful” and the old favorite of drugmakers everywhere, “game changer.”
But even using the typical statistical study magic, Amgen could only find a meager benefit for Repatha. And many experts said the study results were not quite what was expected.
Where Repatha is concerned, however, here’s what is expected.
As we’ve been telling you from the get-go, this drug, which is given as a twice-monthly injection or once-a-month infusion, was originally approved amidst a sea of red flags.
Early on in the approval game, the FDA sent a letter to drugmakers who were tinkering with these PCSK9 meds (there’s another one on the market now called Praluent), warning about the very real potential of “neurocognitive adverse events” with them.
Or, to say that more simply, dementia.
These PCSK9 drugs can drop cholesterol levels to such unheard-of, dangerous lows that, as we’ve told you before, they are basically a prescription for losing your ability to focus, think and remember.
On top of that, you have to take them along with a high-dose daily statin! Now there’s a double whammy of horrible side effects!
Currently, insurance companies are rejecting the lion’s share of claims submitted for Repatha — a situation I doubt will change very much.
And that’s actually the best thing you can say about this drug!
“Cholesterol drug prevent heart attacks — but cost $14K a year” Liz Szabo, March 17, 2017, USA Today, usatoday.com