Biotech and Pharma

Regeneron CEO puts conditions on lowering his $14,000-per-year cholesterol drug

Key Points
  • Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer says the biotech firm will lower the price of Praluent so long as insurers increase access to patients.
  • Results from a trial find that the cholesterol drug reduced major adverse heart events and led to fewer deaths among high-risk patients.
Regeneron CEO: We’re trying to change the paradigm on drug access and pricing
Regeneron CEO: We’re trying to change the paradigm on drug access and pricing

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals CEO Leonard Schleifer said Monday the biotech firm is willing to lower the cost of its more than $14,000-per-year cholesterol drug for patients.

"But we've done that with a challenge," Schleifer told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "The challenge is, we're going to force the payers as best we can and hopefully get the doctors and the patients on our side ... to make access straightforward for the patients who need it."

New results from a highly anticipated long-term clinical trial found that the cholesterol drug Praluent significantly reduced major adverse heart events by 24 percent and led to fewer deaths among high-risk patients.

The study included nearly 19,000 patients who were injected with the drug or a placebo every two weeks. Some patients switched to a higher dose if LDL cholesterol levels remained at certain levels.

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, which conducted an independent review of Praluent's value based on the new risk-reduction data from the study, recommended a price range of $4,500 to $8,000 for high-risk patients likely to gain the most benefit from the drug therapy. That's a significantly less than the $14,600-a-year list price for the drug, which is sold by Regeneron and Sanofi.

Regeneron and Sanofi announced they would be willing to charge less for their drug. Schleifer reiterated to CNBC that Regeneron "can live in" ICER's price range and give patients value "so long as the access is there."

Some insurers, which Schleifer said have frequently rejected prescriptions, have been unwilling to pay due to the drug's cost.

"Doctors are furious" with insurers, Schleifer said. The doctors "write a prescription and most of them are getting rejected. Patients should be able to get the drugs that they want."

Schleifer also said companies such as his should be rewarded for their innovations.

"If you had data like this, Wall Street and patients and doctor communities would be having a parade for you," Schleifer told CNBC. "But now, you have to stare down right in the face of the people who are paying the bills and it's the world we live in."

Shares of Regeneron and Sanofi were up fractionally Monday. Amgen, which sells a rival drug, saw its stock price decline slightly.