July 29, 2015 / 3:15 PM / in 3 years

Express Scripts says costly new cholesterol drugs could wreak havoc

July 29 (Reuters) - Express Scripts Holding Co, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the United States, on Wednesday said the cost of potent new cholesterol drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors could “wreak financial havoc” among its clients.

U.S. regulators on Friday approved the first of the new medicines, Praluent from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and Sanofi SA. Given every other week by injection, Regeneron said it will have a wholesale price of $1,120 for a 28-day supply. That equates to about $14,560 per year.

By contrast, standard cholesterol fighters called statins, including generic forms of Pfizer Inc’s Lipitor and Merck & Co’s Zocor, can cost less than $50 a month.

A rival PCSK9 inhibitor from Amgen Inc, called Repatha, is expected to gain U.S. approval next month and was approved on July 21 in Europe. The new drugs work by blocking the protein PCSK9, whose natural function is to prevent “bad” LDL cholesterol from being removed from the bloodstream.

Express Scripts administers drug benefits for employers and health plans and also runs large mail order pharmacies.

In a conference call with investors on Wednesday to review quarterly earnings, company officials took aim at the expected costs of the medicines.

“While these drugs are being viewed as breakthroughs, they also have the potential to wreak financial havoc on clients who do not proactively manage” their drug costs, said Tim Wentworth, president of the PBM. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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