Spike in Drug Costs: Cholesterol

Advancements in pharmaceuticals can result in drugs that have fewer side effects, improve a patient’s quality of life and save lives, but what if not everyone can afford them?

To help educate patients and providers, ACHP compiles national data to tell the story of rising drug costs and their effect on consumers, health care groups and society. Today we released the fourth installment in our Spike in Drug Costs infographic series, focused on cholesterol medications.

More than 70 million Americans have elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL)—bad cholesterol. Only one in three has his or her condition under control. Left untreated, high LDL can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and other health-related problems.

If diet and exercise are not sufficient to keep LDL levels down, physicians often recommend a medical treatment. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association point to statins as the first step. These drugs are proven safe and well-tolerated by patients. They result in 20 percent fewer heart attacks and strokes and cost as little as $3.30 per month.

Another option for treating cholesterol has hit the market at a much higher price. PCSK9 inhibitors could increase U.S. health care costs substantially, potentially costing nearly $1,200 per month. Up to 356 patients can be treated with generic statins for the same cost as treating one patient with a PCSK9. Additionally, PCSK9s have undetermined effects on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

ACHP promotes increased transparency on prescription drug costs and works closely with its community-based plans’ medical directors and pharmacy leaders to develop the infographics in the Spike in Drug Costs series. Information on earlier installments in the series—on rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes—can be found on our website.


-Alaina Monismith