Now you can reduce your cholesterol... if you can afford it

Federal regulators on Friday approved the first of a new class of drug that can sharply lower cholesterol levels, offering a new option for millions of Americans suffering from cardiovascular disease, the nation’s leading killer.

But the drug, Praluent, which analysts project will become a huge seller, is expected to become the next flashpoint in the growing controversy of escalating pharmaceutical prices, and health plans are expected to put in place strict measures to control which patients can use the drug and prevent it from becoming a budget-buster.

The list price of Praluent is about $14,600 a year, substantially higher than the $7,000 to $12,000 that some health plan executives and Wall Street analysts had been expecting. Typically insurers and government health programs get discounts or rebates.