New cholesterol-fighting drug slashes heart attack risk, but at a steep price; Amgen shares drop

A research associate performs a buffer exchange for protein formulation at AMGEN, a drug research and development laboratory.

Ricardo Dearatanha | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
A research associate performs a buffer exchange for protein formulation at AMGEN, a drug research and development laboratory.

Amgen shares fell Friday after the company said its cholesterol-lowering drug failed to significantly lower mortality and costs more than many insurers want to pay.

Called Repatha, the drug reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death by 20 percent, Amgen said in a report about a 27,564-patient trial.

However, the results don’t justify the price tag, many analysts said.

“At a cost of $7K/year, this translates to $958K per event saved. Thus, in our view, payers will continue to restrict access to the drug,” Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal wrote in a note. He said the study shows that the drug prevents only one cardiovascular event per 137 treated patients.

Amgen said that medication’s results do justify the price tag. Not only does the study confirm that Repatha — also known as Evolocumab — serves its intended function, but the study revealed no new side effects.

“This is a game changer for high-risk patients,” Sean E. Harper, M.D., executive vice president of research and development at Amgen, said in a release.

“Even though these patients were optimally treated with the latest therapies, they were still at high risk for an additional cardiac event,” he said. “It’s remarkable to see such a large impact in reducing cardiac events given that this patient population was only on Repatha for about two years.”

Five-day performance of Amgen

Source: FactSet.

After closing at $180.11 Thursday, the stock slid nearly 7 percent early Friday to trade at $167.65. Declines in shares of Amgen dragged down the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF, which fell more than 1 percent in morning trade.

Despite the day’s decline, the stock is still up 14.5 percent over the past three months.

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