Bloomberg Businessweek

The Big Drug That Couldn’t

• Sanofi had high hopes for its new cholesterol medicine. Then health-care economics kicked in

For years, drug companies have enjoyed the freedom to charge high prices for their latest products. But when Sanofi and Amgen Inc. each marketed a powerful new cholesterol-lowering medicine, something surprising happened: High prices hurt sales. Sanofi’s experience has been especially painful. The French company spent more than five years developing Praluent with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. before its launch in 2015. But Praluent never caught on. Now Sanofi is cutting its losses, getting out of the U.S. market for the drug, and halting its heart disease research altogether in favor of more lucrative medicines for cancer and other diseases. “We’re proud of our past, but it shouldn’t dictate some poor investment decisions,” Paul Hudson, Sanofi’s new chief executive officer, told a group of investors last month. “We have to draw a line in the sand.”

What went wrong with Praluent? The drug is one of several cholesterol-lowering injections known as PCSK9 inhibitors. It does

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