By Michael Erman
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sanofi SA and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Monday that they will slash the U.S. list price of their potent but expensive cholesterol fighter Praluent by 60 percent, as the drugmakers follow a similar move by rival Amgen Inc in hopes of increasing use of the drug.
The new list price for Praluent will be $5,850 (£4,533) a year, matching the price Amgen set when it lowered the list of its competing drug, Repatha, in October.
Sanofi and Regeneron said they expect the lower-priced Praluent to be available for pharmacies to order in early March. They said the new price should improve patient access and result in lower out-of-pocket costs for U.S. consumers.
Praluent and Repatha belong a class of injectable biotech drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors that dramatically lower bad LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks and death.
Sales of both have been severely constrained by onerous roadblocks to patient access put up by insurers looking to limit spending on the expensive drugs.
They were approved in 2015 with initial list prices of more than $14,000 a year.
In March of last year, Regeneron and Sanofi said that they would be willing to charge less for their drug if insurers agreed to reduce barriers for high-risk heart patients.
A few months later they struck a deal with Express Scripts, now part of Cigna Corp, to make the drug available to that company's customers at a price in the range of $4,500 to $6,600 a year.
The United States, which leaves drug pricing to market competition, has higher prices than in other developed countries, where governments directly or indirectly control costs. That makes it by far the world's most lucrative market for manufacturers.
Congress has been targeting the pharmaceutical industry over the rising cost of prescription drugs for U.S. consumers, particularly since Democrats took over the House of Representatives in January.
Executives from at least six drugmakers plan to testify at a Senate hearing on rising prescription drug prices later this month.
Drug pricing is also a top priority of the administration of President Donald Trump, who had made it a central issue of the 2016 presidential campaign.
(Reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Bill Berkrot)