(Bloomberg) — CVS Health Corp. (NYSE:CVS), the second-biggest manager of prescription drug benefits in the U.S., will make a new class of injectable cholesterol treatments its next major target to push back against high drug costs.
The drugs, called PCSK9 inhibitors, belong to an experimental class of medicines under development by Amgen Inc., Pfizer Inc., and Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. They can cut levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol dramatically, benefiting people who can’t take other cholesterol medicines or who can’t get their levels low enough.
They may also cost $7,000 to $12,000 a year and patients could be on them for life, adding significant expense to the medical system, CVS executives warned.
“With a robust pipeline of expensive specialty drugs this is just the beginning, and the resilience and ability of our health care system to absorb such high costs will be tested if rigid cost-control mechanisms are not put in place,” William Shrank, chief scientific officer at CVS, said in a statement.
These cholesterol drugs are the latest part of a broader effort by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to push down the cost of new drugs. Express Scripts Holding Co. Chief Executive Officer George Paz said in January that PCSK9 inhibitors will be the next opportunity to pit drugmakers against each in order to force prices down. Express Scripts is also setting its sights on cancer medications, where the latest drugs can cost as much as $150,000.