WASHINGTON, July 10 – Following the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) full approval of the Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, on Monday sent a follow-up letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra once again urging the Biden Administration to act to substantially reduce the price of this treatment and to develop a plan to lower the price of all new prescription drugs. Sanders previously wrote to Becerra last month on the outrageous cost of Leqembi before the FDA’s approval.
“Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease,” Sanders wrote. “We must do everything possible to find a cure for the millions of people who suffer from it today, and the millions more who will be afflicted in the coming years. But, as we grapple with the huge number of Americans who will be seeking medical treatment for Alzheimer’s, we must develop policies now that prevent pharmaceutical companies from bankrupting Medicare and our entire health care system.”
In his letter, Sanders asked Secretary Becerra why the price of Leqembi could not be lowered to $8,900, which is the price independent experts believe it should cost based on its effectiveness. Sanders also asked Secretary Becerra how much Leqembi will cost Medicare, how much Medicare premiums will go up for all seniors as a result of the cost of this one drug, how many seniors with Alzheimer’s will not be able to receive treatment because they cannot afford to pay the more than $5,000 co-payment for Leqembi, and what strategy, if any, HHS is developing to lower the price of new prescription drugs coming onto the market.
Sanders requested that Secretary Becerra provide a written response to his questions no later than July 21. If Sanders does not receive a timely and adequate response to these questions, he will be inviting Secretary Becerra to attend a HELP Committee hearing to “explain to the American people why we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and how those outrageous prices threaten Medicare beneficiaries and patients throughout the country.”
Leqembi was developed by Eisai, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, and Biogen, an American company that in 2021 wanted to charge U.S. taxpayers $56,000 for a different Alzheimer’s treatment called Aduhelm. After public pressure from Sanders, Biogen backed down and lowered the price to $28,200. Biogen and Eisai have set the price of Leqembi at $26,500 even though the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, an independent non-profit organization, estimated in March that this drug should be sold for as little as $8,900 per year based on its effectiveness.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, if only 10 percent of the 6.7 million older adults with Alzheimer’s disease take Leqembi at Eisai and Biogen’s proposed price, it would cost Medicare $17.8 billion, which is nearly half of what Medicare Part B spent on all drugs in 2021.
In early December of 2021, Sanders sent a letter to President Biden urging him to instruct Medicare to delay expanding coverage of Aduhelm until the scientific community determined that it was safe and effective and to reverse a record-breaking increase in Medicare premiums attributable to the $56,000 price of this drug. Sanders first spoke out about Biogen’s outrageous greed when the original $56,000 price tag for the treatment was released. As a result, the Administration limited access to Aduhelm for clinical trials and reduced Medicare premiums by 3 percent this year.
Read the letter, here.