Biogen cuts the price of its Alzheimer’s drug in half

(AP) – Biogen is slashing the price of its Alzheimer’s treatment in half a month after debuting in the face of widespread criticism at an initial cost that could reach $ 56,000 per year.

The drugmaker said on Monday it would cut the cost of purchasing the drug in bulk by about 50% next month. This means that the annual cost for an average weight person will be $ 28,200.

The actual amount that person would pay will depend on factors such as insurance coverage.

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said in a prepared statement that too many patients were not offered the drug due to “financial considerations” and their disease had progressed beyond the point where Aduhelm could help them.

Aduhelm is the first in a line of new drugs that promise to do what no other treatment for Alzheimer’s disease has succeeded: slow the progression of the deadly brain-destroying disease, rather than just manage its symptoms. .

The drug received FDA approval in June, and the agency later said it was appropriate for patients with mild symptoms or early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

But Aduhelm’s debut was hampered by concerns about the price and the research behind the drug. Some insurers have balked at paying for the drug, while medical centers across the country have either been slow to decide whether to use the drug or have said they have no plans to prescribe it just yet.

Doctors said concerns about the price were compounded by the costs patients would also face for regular tests and scans needed to monitor their progress on Aduhelm.

Biogen said in June it would not increase the price of the drug for four years, and the company has often touted its patient financial assistance programs.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Brian Abrahams said he was not surprised by Biogen’s price drop. He said in a research note that the move was probably necessary and should “give Aduhelm his best chance for success.”

The initial price was a key factor behind planned premium increases for Medicare, the federal government’s coverage program for people aged 65 and over and for people with disabilities.

Last month, Medicare announced one of the largest increases on record in its monthly “Part B” premium for outpatient care. He said he would increase the premium by almost $ 22 from the current $ 148.50 to $ 170.10 starting in January.

The agency said about half of that increase was due to the need for a contingency fund to cover Aduhelm. Medicare should be one of the main payers for the drug.

Aduhelm removes plaque from the brain believed to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, and US regulators have given their approval based on the results of a study showing that the drug appears likely to benefit patients. But they asked for more research.

Biogen, which developed Aduhelm with Japanese company Eisai Co., said last week that the company plans to screen the first patients for their next study in May. The researchers will aim to recruit around 1,300 people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and hope to complete the research around four years after the study begins.

Concerns about research into the drug’s origin were one of the main reasons the European Medicines Agency gave for denying Aduhelm’s marketing authorization last week.

Biogen said in October that Aduhelm only achieved $ 300,000 in sales in its first full quarter on the market. The company attributed that figure in part to drug wholesalers who reduced inventory they had purchased in the previous quarter.

Biogen also announced Monday that it will launch cost-cutting measures that are expected to generate around $ 500 million in annual savings, most of which will be achieved next year. The company said it was cutting costs in part because Aduhem’s slow start was affecting its revenue.

Shares of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biogen Inc. slipped $ 1.07 to $ 236.36 Monday morning as broader indices fell.

The share price had passed $ 425 in June after FDA approval, but the shares have since lost almost half of their value.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Eleanor C. William