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After criticisms, Biogen slashes price of its Alzheimer drug in half

Story behind controversial Alzheimer's drug
FDA and Biogen's push to accelerate approval of Alzheimer's drug 05:00

Biogen is slashing the price of its Alzheimer's treatment in half, months after it debuted to widespread criticism for an initial cost that could reach $56,000 annually.

Aduhelm, the first new FDA-approved Alzheimer's drug in almost two decades, is the first in a line of new drugs that promise to do what no other Alzheimer's treatment has managed: Slow the progress of the fatal brain-destroying disease, rather than just managing its symptoms. 

The drugmaker said Monday it will cut the wholesale acquisition cost of the drug by about 50% next month. That means the annual cost for a person of average weight will amount to $28,200.

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said in a prepared statement that too many patients were not being offered the drug due to "financial considerations," and their disease had progressed beyond the point where Aduhelm could help.

A new Alzheimer's drug brings hope, controversy 08:39

Aduhelm works by going after abnormal protein deposits, called amyloid plaques, that show up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients decades before symptoms do.

"That is really the goal,"Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., chief science officer at the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago, told CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Susan Spencer, "to be able to stop this disease in its tracks, to stop it at the biological timepoint when proteins are starting to accumulate in the brain that ultimately will lead to those memory and behavior changes that today we know of as dementia."

The excitement over Aduhelm stemmed from its proven ability to clear those protein formations, the amyloid plaques.

The drug received FDA approval in June, but its debut has been slowed in part by concerns over the price. Some insurers have balked at paying for the drug while medical centers across the country have said they weren't planning to use it for now.

Biogen said in October that Aduhelm had brought in only $300,000 in sales during its first full quarter on the market.

Shares of Biogen Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, rose slightly in early trading Monday.

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