This week, the FDA approved Biogen’s unproven and hugely expensive Alzheimer’s drug, Aducanumb, and experts have said that the drug’s $56,000 price tag will have major financial implications for patients, taxpayers, and the entire health care system. Even though the benefits of Aducanumb are uncertain, Biogen is putting profits over patients and taking advantage of a broken system that allows drugmakers to set outrageous prices without any limitations. The news only underscores the urgent need for Congress to take action and pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) to give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices for all Americans, including launch prices.

Axios: New Alzheimer’s Drug Could Blow Up Health Spending. “The FDA’s decision this week paved the way for a free-for-all in which taxpayers foot most of the enormous bill for a drug that hasn’t been proven effective.” [Axios, 6/8/21]

CNBC: Biogen Faces Tough Questions Over $56K-A-Year Price Of Newly Approved Alzheimer’s Drug. “Analysts and advocacy groups immediately questioned how the company could justify the price — about five times higher than expected — especially as medical experts continue to debate whether there’s enough evidence that the drug actually works. [When executives were asked] how much Medicare will be expected to pay for the drug and how concerned executives are about the ‘backlash’ the industry will face over its pricing, Biogen executives [responded] the total price is ‘substantiated’ by the value it is expected to bring to patients, caregivers and society. They insisted the price was ‘responsible’.” [CNBC, 6/8/21]

STAT News: Biogen Isn’t Worried About Backlash To ‘Bewildering’ Price Of Alzheimer’s Drug. “Health policy experts have criticized Biogen and warned that the cost of Aduhelm, which will largely fall upon Medicare, could galvanize a political backlash and jump-start legislative efforts to constrain drug prices.” [STAT News, 6/8/21]

STAT News (Opinion): Bad Medicine: Aducanumab Is A Lackluster Drug With A High Price Tag. “Millions of US residents over age 65 will surely want [aducanumab]. This will only serve to emphasize the disparities in care accessibility that our system is already struggling with. Were Medicare to begin coverage, the projected costs of treating all eligible recipients would quickly overwhelm the resources of the system.” [STAT News, 6/8/21]

Bloomberg: Alzheimer’s Drug Approval Draws Fire On Treatment’s Effectiveness And Uses. “The approval could raise false hope in patients and ‘potentially bankrupt the Medicare program because of the drug’s projected exorbitant price.’” [Bloomberg, 6/7/21]

Quartz: The New Alzheimer’s Drug Is About $50,000 Too Expensive. “The majority of [Alzheimer’s] patients are covered by Medicare part B, which deals with treatments delivered in hospitals, and which until now has had a budget of about $35 billion a year. The new drug could easily double that budget, putting a severe strain on Medicare resources without clear benefits.” [Quartz, 6/8/21]

BACKGROUND:

More Than A Third Of Americans Have Forgone Medications To Pay For Essential Items And Bills. A recent survey found that 36% of Americans have forgone medications to pay for essential items and bills. The rate is higher for people of color, with nearly half (47%) of non-white respondents having forgone medications to pay for essential items.

H.R. 3 Would Save Taxpayers Nearly $500 Billion Over The Next 10 Years. Analyses from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the CMS Office of the Actuary confirmed the bill would reduce negotiated drug prices by as much as 55% – saving patients an estimated $158 billion over the next few years and decreasing deficits by $456 billion. 

H.R. 3 Could Save Patients Thousands Of Dollars On Costly Medications. The Center for American Progress calculated average savings for several drugs that would likely meet the criteria for negotiation under H.R. 3. In addition to achieving thousands of dollars in monthly savings on expensive treatments for conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis, H.R. 3 would help lower the cost of insulin for some diabetics by more than $700 annually.

H.R. 3 Would Work To Create A Fair Standard For Drug Prices. The CommonWealth Fund found the bill would create a maximum price for any negotiated drug by tying it to the cost in other countries and penalizing manufacturers who fail to agree to prices set by HHS. 

For more information on the urgent need to lower drug prices, click here