More grist for PCSK9 fight as Amgen sets up EU to pay about half as much as U.S.

Last week, Amgen ($AMGN) won its much-anticipated FDA approval for the PCSK9 cholesterol-fighter Repatha, and promptly set a price of $14,100 per year. That's a jumping-off point for payer negotiations, of course; Amgen is competing with Sanofi ($SNY) and Regeneron's ($REGN) rival PCSK9 med Praluent. But even after pharmacy benefits managers and insurers wring out their discounts, the cost is unlikely to be nearly as low as Repatha's price tag in Europe.

As Reuters reports, Amgen is launching Repatha in Europe at about half the U.S. sticker price. The company said Tuesday that it would charge £340.20 for a 28-day supply of the med in Britain, or about $520. That stacks up to about $6,870 per year.

Repatha's cost in other EU countries should be a bit higher, Reuters says; in Austria, for instance, the price is set at about 7,300 euros, or $8,220. But that's still far short of its U.S. price.

Payers in the U.S. have been on the offensive against PCSK9 costs for more than a year, long before Praluent became the first of the new class to win FDA approval last month. CVS Health ($CVS) execs, for instance, published studies suggesting an all-but-overwhelming cost burden for the meds, given the millions of patients who could theoretically be eligible for them. Rival PBM Express Scripts ($ESRX) has promised to pit the two meds against each other to win discounts, most likely in return for exclusive placement on its key formulary.

In the meantime, the two top PBMs--along with other payers--have already erected barriers to PCSK9 scripts, requiring patients to fail on standard statin therapy first, and sometimes limiting access to those whose LDL numbers exceed certain levels.

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is backing new legislation to try to bring U.S. drug prices more on par with the rest of the world, using tactics such as Medicare price negotiation. As the presidential candidate--and frequent pharma critic--said in a statement on Tuesday, "We should use our buying power to get better deals for the American people. Other countries do it. Why don't we?"

There's no word yet on how Praluent's price tag in Europe will compare with its $14,600 list price stateside. Sanofi and Regeneron have won a recommendation for European approval from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP), but they're still waiting on final word from the European Commission. Given the head-to-head competition between Repatha and Praluent, however, Sanofi and Regeneron aren't likely to charge much of a premium--if any--to Amgen's price.

- see the Reuters news
- get the outline of Sanders' legislative proposal (PDF)

Special Reports: Top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue - Sanofi - Amgen | 10 top drugs in biopharma's late-stage pipeline - Alirocumab