Citing outrageous costs and safety concerns around Alzheimer’s drug, Sanders calls for Medicare to negotiate drug prices
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday sent a letter to President Biden urging his administration to delay an increase in Medicare premiums coming in 2022 following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the outrageously expensive Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, which costs $56,000 per person each year.
“This is a perfect example of why Medicare should be negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry,” wrote Sanders. “Unless you take action soon, the standard monthly Medicare Part B premium paid by some 57 million beneficiaries will increase by 14.55 percent (from $148.50 to $170.10) beginning next year. This $21.60 a month increase in Medicare premiums would be the largest in the 56-year history of Medicare and it could not come at a worse time for older Americans all over this country who are struggling economically.”
Biogen, the manufacturer of Aduhelm, has set the price of this Alzheimer’s drug at $56,000 even though the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, an independent non-profit organization, has estimated that the maximum price of this drug should be no higher than $3,000-$8,400.
As Biogen seeks to make exorbitant profits, 10 out of 11 experts on the FDA’s advisory committee voted against approving Aduhelm. The Veterans Health Administration has announced that it would not be covering Aduhelm due to safety concerns and the “lack of evidence of a robust and meaningful clinical benefit,” and at least a half a dozen private health insurance companies have also decided not to cover Aduhelm.
Despite the concerns in the scientific community and the outrageous price, over the summer the FDA approved Aduhelm for use in the United States. The result is that Medicare, which covers all FDA-approved drugs, will increase Part B premiums on January 1, 2022 in order for the program to afford the new treatment. As a result of the approval in June, three members of the FDA’s advisory committee resigned in protest.
In his letter, Sanders urged the Biden Administration to immediately prevent the Medicare Part B premium increase, delay Medicare’s approval for use of Aduhelm until it is deemed safe and effective, and take executive action to reinstate and expand the reasonable pricing clause requiring drug makers that receive federal funding to charge reasonable prices for prescription drugs and treatments – a policy that ended in 1995.
Sanders wrote, “In my view, it would be absolutely unacceptable to force 57 million senior citizens to pay $11.50 more a month in Medicare premiums due to Biogen’s greed and thirst for massive profits for a drug that has not been proven to be effective by the scientific community and has been rejected for coverage by the Veterans Health Administration and at least a half a dozen private health insurance companies in the United States. It would be equally unacceptable to force seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease to come up with a 20 percent co-payment of $11,200 out of their own pockets for Aduhelm – which is precisely what they would have to pay if Biogen is allowed to charge $56,000 for this drug.”
Sanders concluded, “Biogen’s $56,000 price of Aduhelm is the poster child for how dysfunctional our prescription drug pricing system has become. The notion that one pharmaceutical company can raise the price of one drug so much that it could negatively impact 57 million senior citizens and the future of Medicare is beyond absurd. With Democrats in control of the White House, the House and the Senate we cannot let that happen.”
Read the full letter here.