Maker Cuts Price of Alzheimer's Drug in Half

The medication wasn't catching on at more than $50K per year, Biogen says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 20, 2021 5:25 PM CST
Price of Drug Intended to Slow Alzheimer's Is Cut in Half
Biogen, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., won FDA approval for Aduhelm in June.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Biogen is slashing the price of its Alzheimer's treatment in half, months after it debuted to widespread criticism over an initial cost that could reach $56,000 annually. The drugmaker said Monday that it will cut the wholesale acquisition cost of the drug by about 50% next month. That means the annual cost for a person of average weight will amount to $28,200. The actual amount that person would pay will depend on factors like insurance coverage, the AP reports. CEO Michel Vounatsos said in a statement that too many patients were not being offered the drug due to "financial considerations" and that their disease had progressed beyond the point where Aduhelm could help.

Aduhelm is the first in a line of new drugs that promise to do what no other Alzheimer's treatment has managed: slow the progress of the fatal brain-destroying disease, rather than just managing its symptoms. The drug received FDA approval in June, and the agency later said it was appropriate for patients with mild symptoms or early-stage Alzheimer's. But Aduhelm's debut has been slowed by concerns over the price and research behind the drug. Some insurers have balked at paying for the drug, while medical centers have been either slow to decide on using the drug or said they weren't planning to prescribe it for now.

The initial price was a key factor behind planned premium hikes for Medicare, the federal government’s coverage program for people 65 and older and for the disabled. Last month, Medicare announced one of the largest increases ever in its "Part B" monthly premium for outpatient care. It said it would raise the premium nearly $22, from $148.50 currently to $170.10 starting in January. The agency said about half of that hike was due to the need for a contingency fund to cover Aduhelm. Medicare is expected to be one main payers for the drug.

(More Alzheimer's disease stories.)

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