Biogen opens door to adjusting price of Alzheimer's drug amid outcry

Biogen opens door to adjusting price of Alzheimer's drug amid outcry
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The pharmaceutical company Biogen on Wednesday opened the door to adjusting the price of its new Alzheimer's treatment amid an outcry over the cost. 

The company said in a statement that if more people end up taking the drug than it expects, it could adjust the price, which is currently set at $56,000 per year. 

"We have determined the launch price of Aduhelm based on our belief in the impact of treatment as well as the size of the appropriate patient population based on the entry criteria of our clinical trials," the company said. "In the event that our fundamental assumptions on population size and rate of adoption are significantly different than expected, we stand ready to work with public and private payers to address pricing in order to achieve both patient access and support budget sustainability."

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The drug has drawn controversy not only because of the price, but because there have been doubts expressed about whether it even works.

The Food and Drug Administration approved it despite its advisory committee recommending against approval, and three members of the advisory committee quit in protest.  

Biogen said it estimates that 1 million to 2 million Alzheimer's patients will fit the criteria for taking the drug, those with mild cognitive impairment. 

But the company said it does not expect all of these patients to immediately be prescribed the drug, and that uptake will be "gradual over a number of years."

The company did not provide details on how many more people than expected would need to take the drug for it to adjust the price, or by how much it would adjust it. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that the cost of the drug to the Medicare program could be massive. If 1 million people take the drug, that would cost more than $57 billion, more than Medicare Part B spends on all other drugs combined. 

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"It's unconscionable to ask seniors and taxpayers to pay $56,000 a year for a drug that has yet to be proven effective," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats release data showing increase in 'mega-IRA' accounts Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week MORE (D-Ore.) wrote on Twitter earlier this month.  

Wyden is working on legislation aimed at lowering drug prices. 

"Medicare must be able to negotiate a fair price for prescription drugs," he added.