Bernie Sanders urges President Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer’s drug

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter to President Biden on Friday, calling on him to delay an increase in Medicare premiums for next year. The hike in price is tied partially to a controversial, expensive drug used to treat Alzheimer’s. 

Sanders’ letter to the president urged Biden to “prevent the outrageous increase in Medicare Part B premiums associated with the potential approval of the Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm.”

The senator said the administration should pause Medicare’s approval for use of the drug until it is deemed safe and effective. He added that executive action should be taken to reinstate and expand the reasonable pricing clause, which requires drug makers that receive federal funding to charge reasonable prices for prescriptions. 

Medicare Part B covers services like doctor’s office visits and is set to increase from $148.50 in 2021 to $170.10 in 2022, reflecting a jump by $21.60. According to officials, the price hike is one of the largest in recent years.

Roughly half that increase is due to contingency planning, which would ensure the program has enough money to cover the cost of Aduhelm if Medicare decides to cover the drug. Aduhelm, which is manufactured by Biogen, has been controversial for its price, $56,000 per year, and the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for use despite doubts about its effectiveness.

Two House committees have started investigations into the FDA’s decision to approve the drug, and Janet Woodcock, the acting FDA Commissioner, has requested a federal probe into the process of approval. Some medical centers declared they would not administer Aduhelm.

Sanders argued in his letter that it is “absolutely unacceptable” to force seniors to pay such a high cost for a drug that might not even be effective.

“Biogen’s $56,000 price of Aduhelm,” Sanders wrote, “is the poster child for how dysfunctional our prescription drug pricing system has become. The notion that one pharmaceutical company can raise the price of one drug so much that it could negatively impact 57 million senior citizens and the future of Medicare is beyond absurd.” He continued, “With Democrats in control of the White House, the House and the Senate we cannot let that happen.”




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