Xavier Becerra
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should rethink a hefty 2022 Medicare Part B premium hike proposal that is based in part on the estimated cost of Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, according to U.S. health secretary Xavier Becerra.

The secretary on Monday asked CMS to reconsider a recommendation that would raise the monthly Part B premium by about $22 to $170.10.

Fully half of this unusually large premium increase was designed to create reserves to cover Aduhelm’s potential use, CMS has reported. But neurologists have not flocked to the monoclonal antibody drug, which targets amyloid beta plaques in the brain and was approved in 2021 under a cloud of controversy. Drugmaker Biogen has since cut Aduhelm’s $56,000 price tag by half as uncertainty about the drug’s cost-benefit profile kept uptake slow

This has prompted Becerra to question the need for the full Medicare premium hike.

“With the 50% price drop of Aduhelm on January 1, there is a compelling basis for CMS to reexamine the previous recommendation,” he wrote in a directive to the agency.

On Wednesday, Jan. 12, CMS is expected to announce whether the drug will likely be covered for seniors, Fierce Pharma has reported.

A request to make a change to premiums once the plan year has started is unusual, medical news outlet Stat has reported. But the nonprofit advocate Alliance for Aging Research applauded Becerra’s order, calling CMS’s link of a premium increase to an Alzheimer’s drug ​​”highly inappropriate.” 

“We hope that Secretary Becerra mentions this in his discussions with CMS, and that the agency is explicitly ordered not to blame access to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, or treatments for any other condition, for future premium increases,” the organization wrote in a statement released Monday.