Amgen Stock Plummets, Costly Drug Repatha Scares Investors
Times Square news sticker displaying stock information.

Amgen Stock Plummets, Costly Drug Repatha Scares Investors

A costly drug made by Amgen Inc., and known to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, could not help the company’s stock from falling by more than 6 percent Friday.

The cholesterol drug, called Repatha, can cut the risk of stroke and heart attack by 20 percent in patients with heart disease, according to report by Reuters. But, sales have been slow and investors leery, keeping in line with patients, who have shied away from the drug’s price tag.

Repatha treatments are around $14,000, Reuters reported. Despite the potential, patients are opting for much cheaper drugs, ones at $100 per year. Repatha, however, continues to reveal its value, centered largely on its ability to rid the body of harmful cholesterol. The drug, according to analysts, has not proven to reduce stroke- or heart-related deaths.

Repatha is also battling insurance companies in its fight to survive. According to a Fourier study involving more than 27,000 patients, the number of benefits managers rejecting prescriptions written for it is growing.

Repatha is injected, either monthly or bimonthly, and presents no known safety issues.

Sales at Amgen competitor Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have also been slow. The company’s shares fell by 3.4 percent, although it fared better than Amgen.

Amgen is standing behind its product. If patient has a heart attack while on it, the company will offer refunds. Spokesmen also said they would work toward payment caps and structure possible risk-sharing agreements to make Repatha more affordable. That, experts say, will prompt more doctors to continue writing prescriptions for the Amgen drug.

Analysts say the drug could grow the patient group eligible for Repatha treatment by 4 million. First, however, Amgen must have it tested by more medical associations. Those tests would likely involve 1 million or more patients, Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Health chief medical officer told Reuters.

Repatha differs from others on the market, namely Lipitor, in that it is not typically prescribed to those who have already experienced stroke or heart attack. For that reason, some investors say it could eventually set a new standard.

“For this high-risk patient group it seems likely that such medicines will become standard of care,” Leerink Partners analyst Geoffrey Porges said.

“However, for lower risk patients this study still leaves payers with significant ammunition to restrict access.”

Amgen represented the biggest brick on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Friday, falling by a total of 6.4 percent. Its stock closed at $168.61. The mark comes the same day Amgen held a webcasted investor meeting, touting Repatha and the Fourier trial. The oral presentation was held at 9 a.m., just after markets opened. It will be followed by another presentation at 9 a.m., Saturday, March 18, according to a company press release.

Saturday’s program will consist of a live audio and video presentation accessible from the Amgen website. Media, investors and the public are invited to participate. Friday and Saturday’s webcasts will be archived and available for review for 90 days.

“This is a game changer for high-risk patients,” said Sean E. Harper, M.D., executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen.

“Even though these patients were optimally treated with the latest therapies, they were still at high risk for an additional cardiac event. It’s remarkable to see such a large impact in reducing cardiac events given that this patient population was only on Repatha for about two years. The absolute benefit will be even greater than what we observed in the Repatha outcomes trial, since the cardiovascular event rate in clinical practice is about 2-3 times higher than what is typically reported in a rigorously controlled outcomes trial.”

The Thousand Oaks, California, Amgen remains the world’s lagest biotechnology company. It purchased Dezima Pharma in 2015. Last year, Amgen went head-to-head with Regeneron in court, claiming Regenoron’s cholesterol drug alirocumab infringed on Amgen’s patents. The court sided with Amgen, later barring Regeneron, along with pharmaceutical company Sanofi, from marketing the drug.

[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]

Comments