December 14, 2021
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden,
On behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s millions of members and supporters, I urge you to stop the dramatic $21 increase in the 2022 Medicare Part B premium that is driven substantially by the potential approval for Medicare coverage of the Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm.
To many seniors and people with disabilities living on a fixed income, a $21 increase will cause hardship. Half of all Medicare beneficiaries had incomes of less than $29,650 per person in 2019; one in four had incomes below $17,000 per person. The Part B premium hike will consume a significant amount of their Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment at a time when inflation is making so many other goods and services — including groceries — more expensive. And beneficiaries in traditional Medicare without supplemental coverage would be forced to pay a 20 percent co-payment of $11,200 out of pocket for this $56,000 medication. Aduhelm is “Exhibit A” for what is wrong with drug pricing in the United States and why Medicare should have broad authority to negotiate prescription drugs prices, including medications under patent or exclusivity.
What makes Aduhelm’s exorbitant cost all the more unconscionable is that many in the scientific establishment do not think the drug is even safe or effective. The American Academy of Neurology has raised concerns about the drug’s safety — it can cause brain swelling — and the “absence of convincing scientific evidence of efficacy.” Many clinicians and health care systems, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, are already refusing to prescribe it. The downsides in cost and safety are not justified by benefits that are at best modest for some beneficiaries and, at worst, dangerous.
The National Committee calls on you to take steps to prevent Aduhelm from driving up the cost of Part B premiums for seniors and people with disabilities. In addition, we urge you to reinstate the reasonable pricing clause that was established by the National Institutes of Health in 1989 but subsequently revoked. Independent analysis places the value of Aduhelm at a fraction of its $56,000 a year cost. Medicare beneficiaries and taxpayers should pay a reasonable price for effective drugs that are worth the amount manufacturers charge.
President and CEO