Healthcare

HHS secretary orders Medicare to ‘reassess’ premium increase driven by Alzheimer’s drug

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Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra on Monday ordered Medicare to “reassess” a proposed premium increase after an expensive new Alzheimer’s drug fell in price.

“Today I’m instructing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reassess the recommendation for the 2022 Medicare Part B premium, given the dramatic price change of the Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm,” Becerra said in a statement. “With the 50% price drop of Aduhelm on January 1, there is a compelling basis for CMS to reexamine the previous recommendation.” 

Medicare had announced in November a steep 14.5 percent increase for 2022 in the monthly premium that millions of seniors have to pay, from $148.50 to $170.10. Part of the reason for that increase was to cover the cost of Aduhelm, a pricey and controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, made by Biogen.  

But in late December, Biogen, facing uproar over the $56,000-per-year initial Aduhelm price, cut its price to $28,200.  

Medicare may now not need to raise as much money through premium hikes to cover the cost of the drug.  

The Biden administration has been facing pressure from Congress, including from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to avert the hefty premium increase for seniors.  

There is still a swirl of controversy around the drug. Some experts say there was not sufficient evidence for the Food and Drug Administration to approve it, adding that it is not clear it even works.  

CMS is facing a major decision, set to be announced this month, over whether Medicare will cover Aduhelm, and in what situations, a move that will help decide the drug’s fate.  

Tags Aduhelm Alzheimer's drug Bernie Sanders Drug prices Medicare medicare premiums Xavier Becerra
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