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HEADLINES: Aducanumab Highlights Need To Address Soaring Specialty Drug Prices

By June 16, 2021No Comments

Last week, the FDA approved the sale of an Alzheimer’s drug, Aducanumab, despite mixed results during its clinical trials and remaining questions about dangerous side effects. Coverage continues to confirm that the drug’s price tag of $56,000 a year will have massive consequences for patients, taxpayers, and the entire health care system. 

Millions of seniors are expected to qualify for this medication, but the drug’s price is double the average income of a person on Medicare. Drugs can only help patients if they can afford them. Patients could be left on the hook for thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs while they are grappling with a devastating disease. Even the Alzheimer’s Association called the price of the drug “simply unacceptable.” Aducanumab shines a bright light on Big Pharma’s endless greed and the rigged system that allows drugmakers to set prices for drugs without limits. It also demonstrates the urgent need for giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prices.

STAT News: Q&A: The CEO Of The Alzheimer’s Association On The Approval Of Aduhelm — And Why Critics Should Stop Dwelling On The Decision. “We believe that the price is unacceptable because we are so concerned that No. 1, it would cause out-of-pocket costs for so many people that would be so high that it would not reach the number of people it otherwise could. And with a price so high, we’re even more concerned that it would drive more inequity in terms of distribution of a treatment we believe will make a difference for people. We want all communities to have access.” [STAT News, 6/16/21]

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Aduhelm, Biogen’s New Alzheimer’s Drug, Won FDA Approval. Now Doctors, Patients, And Insurers Face Tough Decisions About Care And Cost. “The Alzheimer’s Association…this week pronounced Biogen’s proposed price — a whopping $56,000 a year — ‘simply unacceptable’ and said it would be an ‘insurmountable barrier’ to access. It called for a price cut.” [The Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/15/21]

Politico: New Alzheimer’s Drug Could Be ‘Devastating’ For Medicare. “The $56,000 annual price tag of Biogen’s new drug, Aduhelm, already threatens to balloon health care costs. Coverage from Medicare would undoubtedly mean higher premiums for 56 million older adults, and some experts say the federal government shouldn’t cover the drug given the scant evidence it works.” [Politico, 6/15/21]

STAT News: ‘Simply Unacceptable’: Alzheimer’s Association Blasts Biogen Over The Price Of Its New Medicine. “If [500,000] beneficiaries are prescribed Aduhelm…total spending for Aduhelm in one year would be nearly $29 billion. ‘To put this $29 billion amount in context, total Medicare spending for all Part B drugs was $37 billion in 2019’.” [STAT News, 6/12/21]

The Atlantic: The Drug That Could Break American Health Care. “Aduhelm is likely to increase the federal deficit, squeeze state budgets, and force additional costs onto seniors—all for a drug that may not work.” [The Atlantic, 6/11/21]

NPR: Medicare Copays For New Alzheimer’s Drug Could Reach $11,500. “At this price, the cost of this one drug alone could top all others covered by Medicare, if it is used widely.” [NPR, 6/10/21]

Kaiser Family Foundation: FDA’s Approval Of Biogen’s New Alzheimer’s Drug Has Huge Cost Implications For Medicare and Beneficiaries. “If 1 million Medicare beneficiaries receive Aduhelm, which may even be on the low end of Biogen’s expectations, spending on Aduhelm alone would exceed $57 billion dollars in a single year – far surpassing spending on all other Part B-covered drugs combined.” [Kaiser Family Foundations, 6/10/21]

Bloomberg (Opinion): Alzheimer’s Drug Furor Highlights U.S. Health System’s Failures. “Biogen plans to price the drug at $56,000 a year for the average patient, it also stands to cost Medicare and other insurers a bundle.” [Bloomberg Opinion, 6/10/21]

Endpoints News: What Does A Clear Majority Of The Biopharma Industry Think Of The FDA Approval Of Aducanumab? ‘Horrifying’ ‘Dangerous’ ‘Confusing’ ‘Disaster’. “It became immediately apparent that the vast majority of our readers — heavily concentrated among biopharma staffers and execs — were incensed by what they had just witnessed. [Endpoints News, 6/9/21]

Boston Globe: What’s Next For The New Alzheimer’s Drug? Lots Of Thorny Issues Ahead. “Some consumers may face hefty out-of-pocket charges, which could make them think twice about taking a drug with known risks and uncertain benefits.” [Boston Globe, 6/9/21]

Health Affairs (Blog): Limiting Coverage Based On Efficacy And Safety: A Path Forward For Medicare Regarding The Alzheimer’s Treatment Aducanumab. “It is estimated to cost as much as $70,000 per year, but based on the divide of the drug’s clinical effectiveness, it would need to be priced between $2,500-$8,300 a year to be cost effective and the scientific community ha[s] voiced serious concerns about coverage.” [Health Affairs, 6/7/21