For a patient of average weight (74kg), the yearly cost of the maintenance dose (10 mg/kg) will now be $28,200.
The price cut comes ahead of a key Medicare meeting in January, which will establish a national policy on whether to cover the drug or not.
Slow uptake of treatment
When approved by the US FDA in June, the drug became the first new drug to treat Alzheimer’s since 2003. At the time, the price was $56,000 per person: a price that Biogen then said ‘reflected the overall value the treatment brings to patients, caregivers and society — and one that will enable continuous innovation’.
However, FDA approval of the drug was controversial, with an FDA advisory committee previously voting against its approval over questions around efficacy.
In the company’s Q3 results in October, Biogen said the uptake of Aduhelm in the US had been slower than expected - revenue from the drug came in at $300,000 - but the company continued to champion its long-term potential.
Responding to the price cut, the US Alzheimer’s Association said: “Even with this announcement, it is only a first step, the Alzheimer’s Association continues to advocate for equitable access to this treatment for those in the earliest stages of the disease who may benefit, and for the company to offer support to those for whom cost may still be a barrier.
“On behalf of those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, the Alzheimer’s Association continues to call on the CMS to provide coverage for monoclonal antibodies targeting amyloid for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, including Aduhelm.”
Announcing the price cut yesterday, Biogen says it wants to lower the out-of-pocket expenses for patients and reduce the potential financial implications for the US healthcare system.
It explains that the revised price takes into account ‘the questions raised about this first class of therapies, the potential eligible populations and revised pharmaco-economic assumption.
Michel Vounatsos, CEO of Biogen, said: “Over the past several months, we have listened to the feedback of our stakeholders, and we are now taking important actions to improve patient access to Aduhelm.
“Too many patients are not being offered the choice of Aduhelm due to financial considerations and are thus progressing beyond the point of benefitting from the first treatment to address an underlying pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.
"We recognize that this challenge must be addressed in a way that is perceived to be sustainable for the US healthcare system.”
Biogen now estimates that - with insurance coverage and access to diagnostics and specialised centres - around 50,000 patients may start Aduhelm treatment in 2022.
“It is a critical time for the Alzheimer’s disease community as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is considering the possibility of coverage of not only Aduhelm, but also this entire new class of Alzheimer’s disease therapies. We hope our actions will facilitate patient access to these innovative Alzheimer’s treatments,” said Vounatsos.
The Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of Aduhelm, which is an infusion once every four weeks, will be $2,171.40 per infusion for a patient of 74 kg – the average weight of a US patient with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or mild dementia.
A 170 mg vial will be $479.40 and a 300 mg vial will be $846.00. The yearly cost at the maintenance dose (10 mg/kg) would be $28,200. The cost during the first year of treatment will be $20,500 due to the titration period. WAC is a list price and not the net price or the price paid by patients with insurance. The out-of-pocket cost for patients with insurance will vary depending on their coverage.