Companies’ Plan to Charge $26,500 Per Year Could Bankrupt Medicare and America’s Seniors
WASHINGTON, June 7 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra urging the Biden Administration to protect patients and act to substantially reduce the price of an Alzheimer’s treatment that is under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease,” Sanders wrote. “We must do everything possible to find a cure for the millions of people who suffer from it. But we cannot allow pharmaceutical companies to bankrupt Medicare and our federal government in the process. If we are serious about reducing the national debt, we must substantially lower the price that Medicare pays for prescription drugs like Leqembi.”
Leqembi was developed by Eisai, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, and Biogen, an American company that in 2021 wanted to charge U.S. taxpayers $56,000 for a different Alzheimer’s treatment called Aduhelm. After public pressure from Sanders, Biogen backed down and lowered the price to $28,200. Biogen and Eisai have set the price of Leqembi at $26,500 even though the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, an independent non-profit organization, estimated in March that this drug should be sold for as little as $8,900 per year based on its effectiveness.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, if only 10 percent of the 6.7 million older adults with Alzheimer’s disease take Leqembi at Eisai and Biogen’s proposed price, it would cost Medicare $17.8 billion, which is nearly half of what Medicare Part B spent on all drugs in 2021.
“If Biogen and Eisai refuse to lower the price of this drug, HHS has the authority (under 28 U.S.C. Section 1498) to break the patent monopoly on Leqembi,” Sanders wrote. “Further, HHS can direct the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to launch a new demonstration project that would limit payment for Leqembi to reflect the drug’s actual benefit.”
In early December of 2021, Sanders sent a letter to President Biden urging him to instruct Medicare to delay expanding coverage of Aduhelm until the scientific community determined that it was safe and effective and to reverse a record-breaking increase in Medicare premiums attributable to the $56,000 price of this drug. Sanders first spoke out about Biogen’s outrageous greed when the original $56,000 price tag for the treatment was released. As a result, the Administration limited access to Aduhelm for clinical trials and reduced Medicare premiums by 3 percent this year.
To read the letter, click here.