Happy St. Patrick's Day. Today is quite possibly the 1,556th or the 1,557th or the 1,524th or anniversary of the death of this beloved Irish saint--which should sow enough confusion to turn any bar bet today into something truly unpleasant.
Which brings me to three other numbers that are liable to cause confusion: 27,500, 27%, and $14,000. Those are some key figures released today by in a highly awaited report of a trial called FOURIER. (What--you don't want the acronym? Okay, fine: The "Further Cardiovascular OUtcomes Research with PCSK9 Inhibition in Subjects with Elevated Risk" study.)
The trial tested an Amgen drug called Repatha against a placebo in a 27,500-patient (there's one of our numbers) multi-nation, Phase 3, randomized, double-blind trial to see how effective it was in reducing the risk of nasty cardiovascular events. And the results were impressive. Repatha, a monoclonal antibody that substantially lowers LDL cholesterol in the blood, was shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks in patients (who already had evidence of atherosclerosis) by 27%. (There's number No. 2.) The drug reduced the risk of "hard major adverse cardiovascular events" by 20%--but didn't appear to affect overall mortality from cardiovascular disease (which wasn't expected anyway.)
Repatha, which has to be injected, is also priced at $14,000 a year. (Number No. 3.)
So what happened? Naturally, Amgen stock tanked in early morning trading (My colleague Sy Mukherjee has a write-up in today’s Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily newsletter). Why, you ask? Because many were expecting even more dramatic results--especially for a medicine with a $14,000-a-year price tag.
This, of course, is one of the challenges with chemopreventive approaches (at least from a drug maker's point of view)--and why so many pharma companies don't even try to develop medicines with the primary goal of disease prevention. It's too knotty an issue to discuss in a few hundred words, so I'll leave that for another time. But just take a second and imagine if the drug cured (rather than prevented) 20%…or 27%…of patients with a scary disease.
More on this topic soon.
In the meantime, I'm headed off for a short vacation. (I'll be back with an opening essay for the newsletter on Tuesday, March 28.) In the meantime, Sy will take over the essays for Brainstorm Health Daily.
When I return, I should have some exciting stuff to report about our 2nd annual Fortune Brainstorm Health conference, which is taking place on May 2-3 in San Diego. We have some AMAZING speakers lined up--and some very cool surprises, too. It's a by-invitation affair (sorry--I know that sounds rude), but if you've got a great story to tell in the field of digital health, and you want to apply to be a conference delegate, please shoot me an email.
This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.
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