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Medicare asks for review of premium increases for Alzheimer’s drugs

US Health Secretary Xavier Becerra is asking Medicare to reassess the massive premium increases faced by millions of seniors this year.

Becerra’s directive comes days after drug maker Biogen slashed the price of its drug Aduhelm by $56,000 a year to $28,200 a year – a cut of about half.

“With Aduhelm’s 50% discount on January 1, there are compelling grounds … to reconsider the previous recommendation,” Becerra said in a statement of her directive to the Centers for Medicare Services. and Medicaid. The statement was provided to the Associated Press.

More than 50 million Medicare recipients who pay a monthly $170.10 “Part B” premium for outpatient care won’t have an immediate change to their costs, but Monday’s move could pave the way for cuts at the end of the year. The Department of Health and Human Services said it is contacting the Social Security Administration, which collects premiums, to review options.

Standard Part B premiums are growing by about $22 this year, up from $148.50 in 2021 and one of the biggest annual increases ever. About half of that, $11, was attributed to the potential cost of having to cover Aduhelm with its initial $56,000 price tag.

Becerra’s move comes after prominent Democratic senators urged the Biden administration to take immediate steps to cut soaring drug costs for the elderly. The larger drug price restrictions promised by Democrats will hang in Congress along with the rest of President Joe Biden’s major social program act.

When it announced the price cut just days before the Christmas holidays, Biogen admitted the high cost had become an obstacle to its drug purchases.

Medicare currently covers Aduhelm on a case-by-case basis. By the end of this week, the agency is expected to make a decision on initial coverage, but finalization could take months.

Often, the financial impact of high-cost drugs will most directly affect patients with serious illnesses such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis. But with Aduhelm, the pain will be widespread among Medicare recipients in general, not just Alzheimer’s patients who need the drug.

That has turned the drug into a case study of how an expensive treatment can prick government spending and impact household budgets. People without Alzheimer’s won’t be protected from Aduhelm’s costs, as it’s large enough to affect their premiums.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disease with no cure that affects about 6 million Americans, the vast majority of whom are old enough to qualify for Medicare.

Aduhelm is the first Alzheimer’s drug in nearly 20 years. It doesn’t cure dementia, but the Food and Drug Administration has determined that its ability to reduce plaque clumps in the brain has the potential to slow dementia in its early stages. However, many experts say that benefit remains unproven.

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/medicare-told-reassess-premium-hike-alzheimers-drug-82178309 Medicare asks for review of premium increases for Alzheimer’s drugs

Emma Bowman

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