USA Today: New cholesterol drugs could add $120 billion to annual U.S. health costs

The August 16 article, “New cholesterol drugs could add $120 billion to annual U.S. health costs,” highlights a JAMA publication with exaggerated cost estimates that does a disservice to patients.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer in the U.S, and accounts for $600 billion in annual costs. Driving down the costs of CVD complications is imperative, and innovative therapeutics are our best hope. PCSK9 inhibitors are intended for high-risk patients who have exhausted other options.   

This study uses a hypothetical model, with assumptions that overestimate the size and underestimate the risk of the treated population, resulting in exaggerated costs and low estimated value. Proposing prices with such methods is what some price-controlled healthcare systems outside the U.S.n use to ration care. Another study evaluating high-risk patients with different assumptions concluded that PCSK9 inhibitors are cost-effective well above the discounted prices offered today.1   

A balanced discussion about value is critical to inform complex decisions, but must be based on solid assumptions, rather than over-exaggerated cost estimates designed to ring ‘alarm bells’. In reality, these estimates are around 400 times higher than the 2016 analyst consensus estimates for PCSK9 inhibitors. Our focus is to ensure that this balanced discussion helps patients get access to the medicines they need.    


Joshua J. Ofman, M.D., MSHS
Senior Vice President, Amgen

  1. Gandra S, et al. “Cost-Effectiveness of LDL-C Lowering with Evolocumab in Patients with High Cardiovascular Risk in the United States” Clinical Cardiology. 2016 Jun;39(6):313-20.