Lawmakers call new Alzheimer’s drug price “unconscionable”

July 30, 2021

The first Alzheimer’s drug to pass the FDA’s finish line in nearly 20 years — and the only one that will treat the course of the disease, not just symptoms — is facing criticism for the cost: $56,000 a year.

The drug is called Aduhelm, made by Biogen. It’s designed to target amyloid plaques built up in the brain. The FDA approved it in early July after months of controversy about whether the treatment helped with cognitive decline.

The FDA’s own panel of independent advisers criticized the once-failed drug and said the treatment hasn’t proven effective enough to earn the approval, according to Fierce Pharma.

The FDA argued that Aduhelm “consistently and very convincingly reduced the level of amyloid plaques in the brain” which is “reasonably likely to predict important benefits to patients.”

Biogen put Aduhelm’s list price at $4,312 per infusion per patient, which adds up to $56,000 per year.

Aduhelm should cost $8,300 a year at most, according to drug-cost watchdogs at the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review.

Biogen defended the price – saying it won’t be raised over the next four years — and plans to target 1 to 2 million patients with early-onset symptoms.

The FDA initially approved Aduhelm broadly but updated the recommendation to those with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia.

Lawmakers aren’t thrilled with the price, including U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who tweeted, “It’s unconscionable to ask seniors and taxpayers to pay $56,000 a year for a drug that has yet to be proven effective. Medicare must be able to negotiate a fair price for prescription drugs.”