How will Medicare be affected by the cost of Leqembi from Eisai and Biogen? Sen. Sanders is curious

How will Medicare be affected by the cost of Leqembi from Eisai and Biogen? Sen. Sanders is curious

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is increasing his pressure on the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the financial impact of the recently approved Alzheimer’s treatment Leqembi, developed by Eisai and Biogen. After receiving no response from the HHS on his initial request for more information, Sanders has now sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, inquiring about the individual financial burden on customers and the impact on Medicare’s annual operating budget due to Leqembi’s annual price of $26,500.

If the HHS fails to respond, Sanders intends to ask Becerra to attend a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) to explain why the United States pays significantly higher prices for prescription drugs compared to other countries.

On June 7, the day Leqembi received FDA approval, Sanders criticized the drug’s price as “unconscionable” and expressed concerns that it would prevent seniors in need from accessing the treatment. He emphasized that the high co-pay would be unaffordable for many seniors. Sanders also raised alarms about the financial burden on Medicare and the potential for increased premiums. He urged the HHS to consider breaking Eisai’s patent on the drug if the cost of Leqembi is not reduced.

“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 healthcare system,” Sanders wrote this week.

Eisai, in response to a request for comment, referred to a statement from January 7 explaining their pricing rationale for Leqembi.

Related: Eisai And Biogen Embark On Full Launch Of Leqembi Following Alzheimer’s Approval

“While we estimate the per-patient-per-year value of Leqembi treatment to the US society to be $37,600, Eisai decided to price Leqembi below quantified societal value at the wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) of $26,500 per year,” the company wrote, adding that it is working on a less frequent dosage version of the drug which would be less expensive. 

Since becoming the chairman of the influential HELP committee, Sanders, a long-time critic of the pharmaceutical industry, has been actively working to lower drug prices. Recently, he advocated for imposing price caps on drugs developed with government funding, seeking to reauthorize the 2006 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act.
As Eisai and Biogen prepare for the launch of Leqembi following its full approval for Alzheimer’s treatment, Sanders continues his efforts to address the issue of high drug prices.

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