By Remy Servis

A recent article in US News and World Report has brought to light the true costs of increasingly expensive drugs and other pharmaceutical products that are meant for consumers with some of the most complex and serious chronic diseases in our world. This comes against the backdrop of the June FDA announcement that “Praluent”, a new cholesterol-lowering medicine made by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, has been approved for the market. However, Praluent (and many other drugs like it) is such a complex, specialty medicine that experts are predicting a massive price tag for it once it is released—somewhere between $7,000 and $12,000 a year for life.

New cholesterol medicines like Praluent are being hailed as “game changers”, as they can dramatically lower a patient’s cholesterol levels, up to 70% lower than other cholesterol medications alone. For patients who have cholesterol levels so severely high that they cannot be managed, or are incompatible with the traditional classes of cholesterol medications, options like Praluent will allow them unprecedented access to improving their quality of health. Additionally, by effectively lowering these patients’ cholesterol levels, they are at a much lower risk for associated risk conditions, like heart attacks and other cardiac events.

Unfortunately, the reality of the cost of these drugs must be duly noted. In an article released this week by the Washington Post that profiles the rising cost of these specialty drugs, a social worker named Kristin Agar is profiled. Diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease, she was prescribed Benlysta, the only treatment currently on the market for lupus. Even with insurance assistance, at $450 per dose, the price tag proved to be too much for Ms. Agar, and she was forced to discontinue her treatment.

This dilemma is happening to more and more patients, particularly those with complex chronic diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C, cancer, lupus, leukemia and mental illnesses. While the conception and release of new drugs for these conditions is integral to enhancing the ability of our health care system to provide varied treatment options, it seems imperative and necessary to consider the ethical burden that it creates for both pharmaceutical companies and the patients that the medicine is intended for.

Read the full USNWR article here.

Read the full Washington Post article here.