Biogen halves price of Alzheimer’s drug
Biogen on Monday cut in half the price of its Alzheimer’s drug Aduhlem in an effort to boost lackluster sales that stemmed in part from controversy over its price.
The company said Aduhelm will cost $28,200 per year for an average-weight patient, down from the $56,000 a year when the drug first launched last summer.
Sales of the drug yielded only $300,000 for Biogen between July and September after forecasts had predicted revenue to reach $12 million.
Biogen said the price cut is aimed at lowering out-of-pocket expenses for patients as well as “reducing the potential financial implications for the U.S. healthcare system.”
“Too many patients are not being offered the choice of Aduhelm due to financial considerations and are thus progressing beyond the point of benefiting from the first treatment to address an underlying pathology of Alzheimer’s disease,” Biogen Chief Executive Michel Vounatsos said in a statement. “We recognize that this challenge must be addressed in a way that is perceived to be sustainable for the U.S. healthcare system.”
Seniors are facing a looming spike in Medicare premiums in part to ensure the program has enough money set aside in case it has to cover Aduhelm. Monthly premiums are set to rise by $21.60, the largest increase in recent years.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to issue a draft national coverage decision on reimbursing the class of therapies that includes Aduhelm in January. A final decision is expected in April.
CMS doesn’t take the price into account when setting coverage, but analysts at Raymond Jamesc suggested in a note that Aduhelm’s decision could be seen as a way to pressure CMS into giving broad coverage of the drug. Peter Bach, a prominent cancer researcher put it this way:
I feel the need to point out that halving the price of a drug with serious toxicities and no evidence of benefit does not make the drug any better value. #aduhelm
— Peter B. Bach, MD (@peterbachmd) December 20, 2021
The drug has drawn controversy both for its price, and because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it despite doubts from experts about its effectiveness. FDA used an accelerated approval pathway, without clear evidence that the drug even works, over the objections of its outside advisory panel.