Big Pharma Health Jake Johnson Politics

‘Reckless’ FDA and Big Pharma Greed Blamed for Medicare Premium Hike

FDA headquarters sign
(Felton Davis / Flickr)(CC BY 2.0)

By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

Medicare Part B recipients will soon be hit with one of the biggest premium increases in the history of the government program, a hike driven in large part by the Food and Drug Administration’s scandalous approval of a costly—and, according to many experts, dubious—Alzheimer’s drug.

“Medicare’s inability to negotiate lower drug prices means that Big Pharma companies can charge whatever they want.”

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that monthly Medicare Part B premiums will be raised to $170.10 in 2022, up from this year’s level of $148.50.

While CMS officials cited several factors in their explanation of the premium boost—including costs imposed by the coronavirus pandemic—they attributed roughly half of the increase to “additional contingency reserves due to the uncertainty regarding the potential use of the Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm™, by people with Medicare.”

Medicare is currently in the process of deciding whether to cover the drug, which is priced at a staggering $56,000 per year.

A June analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that if 500,000 Medicare recipients are prescribed Aduhelm, total spending on the drug in a single year would be close to $29 billion—”an amount that far exceeds spending on any other drug covered under Medicare Part B or Part D, based on 2019 spending.”

CMS said Friday that “we must plan for the possibility of coverage for this high-cost Alzheimer’s drug which could, if covered, result in significantly higher expenditures for the Medicare program.”

The FDA’s accelerated approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm—also known as aducanumab—sparked outrage among public health experts and prompted the resignations of several agency advisers, who said there was not enough evidence showing the drug actually works to slow Alzheimer’s-induced cognitive decline.

On top of concerns about the treatment’s lack of effectiveness as well as potentially unlawful coordination between the FDA and Biogen throughout the approval process, advocacy groups warned the decision to greenlight the exorbitantly priced drug “threatens to bankrupt the Medicare program.”

Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group and one of the most outspoken critics of the FDA’s handling of Aduhelm, said in a statement Monday that “all Part B Medicare beneficiaries soon will be forced to bear significant financial burden as a direct result of the FDA’s reckless decision to approve aducanumab, a drug that has not been proven to provide any clinically meaningful benefit to Alzheimer’s patients but nevertheless carries an indefensible annual price tag set by Biogen at $56,000 per year.”

“To protect the many Medicare beneficiaries who cannot afford the unacceptable 15% jump in Part B premiums,” Carome added, “CMS must promptly announce that it will exclude aducanumab from coverage under the Medicare program until there is definitive evidence that the drug provides substantial evidence of cognitive benefit to Alzheimer’s disease patients.”

In a column on Monday, Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times argued that the Aduhelm case is “a perfect illustration of how the government’s self-imposed powerlessness to control drug companies’ greed combines with the general dysfunction of the American healthcare system to hit consumers where it hurts the most, in the pocketbook.”

“Plainly,” Hiltzik wrote, “no one in America can escape the burden of unregulated pricing by drug companies, even for a product of doubtful efficacy and even for consumers who aren’t taking the drug in question.”

Social Security Works, a progressive advocacy group, pointed to the newly announced Medicare premium hike as further evidence for the need to allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies—one of the most popular proposals in Democrats’ Build Back Better reconciliation package.

“Medicare’s inability to negotiate lower drug prices means that Big Pharma companies can charge whatever they want—and seniors are paying the price,” the group tweeted Monday. “Congress must pass Build Back Better and give Medicare the power to take on pharma’s greed.”

10 comments

  1. No. Not reckless FDA. Feckless FDA. Unblemished by something called character, integrity and in-touchness-with-Reality. As for Big Pharma Greed. Pure sociopathy. “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.” Why are we citizens putting up with this monkey business? What is the matter with us?

  2. Not allowing Medicare to negotiate prices is just criminal. That’s what it is. It’s taking money out of elderly people’s pockets and giving it to big pharma. Because of this, many elderly people will have to choose between medicine or food and shelter. That’s just not wat Medicare was created for.

  3. I’m getting close to being able to have Medicare myself. I hope I can afford it when that time gets here, and afford food and shelter at the same time.

    1. It is this sort of individualism that destroys any solidarity in the USA. Join up with others and fight it. Don’t moan.

  4. I have to wonder about the morality of a drug this expensive even if it really were to be beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients. What if it were to be shown that extracting the pineal glands from mice were effective for Alzheimer’s, but 1,000 mice were necessary per treatment, would that still be a go-ahead?
    Once again this drug pricing shows something very wrong with placing healthcare into the hands of the profit-making, interest-paying capitalist system.

  5. When money is involved, abuse proliferates. And corruption flourishes. Hence we have a system of drug distribution, that provides pills for every ill, but no CURES ever, hence the recipe for abuse and instant wealth beyond belief. The people should know that we do not die. We are not our bodies in the first place. Therefore when the body dies we do not. We do go back into the consciousness field from which we came. We should stop all support for Big Pig Pharma and let our bodies do what they must. We have been lied to long enough, and it is time for the liars to be extricated from the system like a bad cancer.

  6. Gawd bless Amerika! Slave if not save away the prime years of life, if you can find work, and then enjoy the ‘golden’ years, when the corporate state cashes in and robs you of the crumbs you’ve ‘earned’ with such imposed ‘welfare’ schemes like inflated ‘health care’ costs bleeding you dry as a corpse before death, optimally preceded by exorbitant extraordinary medical interventions on your death bed. Oh yeah, let’s have Medicare for all! Rest assured with the progressive promises our masters and their legislative lackeys make us that it will be ‘equitable’.

  7. What most people don’t get, and what hardly anyone mentions, is that one of the big benefits of single-payer health care is that the government doesn’t have to negotiate with medical providers or pharmaceutical companies. Instead, the government just decides how much it will pay and that’s basically it. That saves almost as much money as cutting out the health insurance industry. Then we have the U.S.

  8. Even poodles of the USA like Australia make the deals as the sole buyer when dealing with pharmaceutical companies-it is a no-brainer. Drugs which even if very effective are priced so the rest of the population is hurt should not necessarily be chosen. This new drug is surely at best only a help to individual Alzheimers patients and their carers, not the rest of us, so they can pay it and take the risk if they wish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: