Xavier Becerra

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra on Monday ordered Medicare to reassess a big premium increase facing millions of seniors this year, after an expensive new Alzheimer’s drug with questionable benefits fell in price. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is due to deliver its preliminary decision on whether to cover the drug for seniors by Jan. 12, with a final verdict scheduled for April.

Drugmaker Biogen recently slashed the price of its $56,000-a-year medication, Aduhelm, to $28,200 a year — a cut of about half — after many hospitals and other providers declined to offer it.

“Today I’m instructing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reassess the recommendation for the 2022 Medicare Part B premium, given the dramatic price change of the Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm,” Becerra said in a statement. “With the 50% price drop of Aduhelm on January 1, there is a compelling basis for CMS to reexamine the previous recommendation.” 

In November, CMS announced that seniors on Medicare would have to pay more than $20 more per month extra in premiums in 2022, an increase of 14.5% that officials in part attributed to possible coverage of Aduhelm. The drug has been mired in controversy since it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in June. Some experts say there was not sufficient evidence to approve it, citing a lack of evidence of benefit in Biogen’s clinical trials.