CVS Fires Away at ACC and AHA, Lobbies for Cheaper Cholesterol Treatments

CVS Fires Away at ACC and AHA, Lobbies for Cheaper Cholesterol TreatmentsCVS Health is clearly on the warpath now, as the company released a new report that essentially demands the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association both launch reforms for cholesterol treatment, specifically centered on making this treatment more affordable for the average American.

In its manifesto, CVS demanded that the ACC and AHA both shift back to concrete numerical thresholds for LDL (harmful cholesterol) levels, from the guidelines launched in 2013 that take a more qualitative approach.  With no numerical targets present, the CVS believes that doctors now have all the bargaining power to prescribe more newfangled, yet premium PCSK9 drugs, and not generic statins that cost much less and have been tried and tested for several decades.

Recently, Regeneron drug Praluent had made its debut in the market, with the average yearly cost of the drug at around $15,000.  This drug is designed to lower LDL cholesterol levels, and it may soon be joined by a similar product from Amgen.  According to CVS, the vague U.S. Food and Drug Administration language in the 2013 guidelines may lead to these expensive drugs becoming lifelong solutions for millions of consumers, even if they do not fall within the numerical thresholds.  Consider that $15,000 a year for as many as 50 years could be a Herculean investment, especially for lower-income consumers.

“This class also poses a new challenge for health care payers,” read the prepared statement penned by CVS’ Dr. William H. Shrank and two colleagues.  “It is an expensive specialty medication that targets a very common condition; more than 73 million adults (32 percent) in the United States have elevated LDL-C.”  He went on to stress that PCSK9 drugs may be prescribed over a very long term, and that government and commercial establishments should “begin to consider thoughtful ways to rationalize the use of these medications.”

Shrank believes that pushing statins instead of PCSK9 drugs would be the “best approach,” though he acknowledged that this strategy may be “complicated by recent changes in recommendations for treating hyperlipidemia.”

In a related statement, CVS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen Brennan said that if the AHA and ACC do not change their guidelines, the company will use its own thresholds, which would be based on a patient’s medical history.  Brennan said that patients are expected to use statins at first, but if they can’t use them or reach LDL targets, that’s the only time they would use PCSK9 inhibitors as cholesterol treatment.

CVS’ complete manifesto is available online on the Journal of the American Medical Association.