Amgen cholesterol drug Repatha launched in UK

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Amgen’s closely-watched cholesterol drug Repatha has been launched in the UK.

Repatha (evolocumab), which reduces low-density lipoprotein i.e. bad, cholesterol (LDL-C) is first in a new class of treatment – PCSK9 inhibitors – to help people who are unable to get below guideline cholesterol levels using existing medicines and an appropriate diet. Data on the treatment has caused a stir, for example with a fortnightly injection of Repatha on top of statin treatment (80mg atorvastatin), patients in one clinical trial achieved an average LDL-C reduction that was 75% lower than those taking atorvastatin alongside a placebo.

The drug, which can also be taken on its own by people who are unable to take a statin, will cost £340.20 for a 28-day supply, which works out at roughly £4,100 a year. This compares with a wholesale price of $14,100 in the USA, where the drug is also being launched this week. However that does not include discounts.

As for getting Repatha on the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s review is in progress and the cost watchdog is expected to publish guidance in April 2016.

Commenting on the launch, Terry McCormack, secretary of the British Hypertension Society and evolocumab clinical trial investigator, noted that “statins transformed our management of raised cholesterol and our understanding of this key risk factor for strokes and heart attacks”. However, he added that “our best efforts with statins – which remain the front line of therapy alongside low-fat diets, exercise and smoking cessation – still leave a significant number of patients with inadequately controlled cholesterol levels”.