Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a pen and pad news conference on Capitol Hill on October 8, 2021. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Sanders Calls on Biden to Slash 'Outrageous' Medicare Premium Hike

"It would be absolutely unacceptable to force 57 million senior citizens to pay $11.50 more a month in Medicare premiums" due to Big Pharma's greed, the Vermont senator said.

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday implored President Joe Biden to step in and prevent a looming Medicare premium hike stemming from the Food and Drug Administration's widely condemned approval of an expensive—and possibly ineffective—Alzheimer's drug.

In a letter to the president, Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that the pharmaceutical company Biogen has placed a $56,000-per-year price tag on Aduhelm, a treatment that the FDA approved in June despite experts' concerns about the dearth of evidence showing it actually works to slow Alzheimer's-induced cognitive decline.

"With Democrats in control of the White House, the House, and the Senate, we cannot let that happen."

"Incredibly and immorally, Biogen... has set the price of this Alzheimer's drug at $56,000 even though the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, an independent non-profit organization, has estimated that the maximum price of this drug should be no higher than $3,000-$8,400," the Vermont senator wrote. "This is a perfect example of why Medicare should be negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry."

Last month, as Common Dreams reported, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that monthly Medicare Part B premiums would be increased to $170.10 in 2022, up from the current level of $148.50.

CMS officials attributed around half of the planned hike—which would be one of the largest in Medicare's history—to "additional contingency reserves due to the uncertainty regarding the potential use of the Alzheimer's drug, Aduhelm™, by people with Medicare."

Without the Aduhelm-related increase—which Sanders is pushing Biden to block—the monthly Medicare premium for 2022 would be around $159.

Medicare officials are still in the process of deciding whether the program will cover the exorbitantly priced drug, which the Department of Veterans Affairs decided not to include on its national formulary, citing "lack of evidence of a robust and meaningful clinical benefit."

Sanders called the planned premium increase "outrageous" and argued that "it would be absolutely unacceptable to force 57 million senior citizens to pay $11.50 more a month in Medicare premiums due to Biogen's greed and thirst for massive profits for a drug that has not been proven to be effective by the scientific community."

"The notion that one pharmaceutical company can raise the price of one drug so much that it could negatively impact 57 million senior citizens and the future of Medicare is beyond absurd," he continued. "With Democrats in control of the White House, the House, and the Senate, we cannot let that happen."

Specifically, Sanders called on Biden to direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to "immediately prevent the $11.50 a month increase in Medicare Part B premiums associated with Aduhelm from going into effect next year."

The senator also urged Biden to instruct CMS to delay its approval of Aduhelm and "take executive action to reinstate and expand the reasonable pricing clause that was established in 1989 by the National Institutes of Health requiring drug makers to charge reasonable prices for prescription drugs and treatments that receive federal funding."

Public health campaigners have been warning for months that the FDA's approval of Aduhelm—which led several agency advisers to resign in protest—could spell disaster for Medicare.

Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said in a November statement 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 [Aduhelm], a drug that has not been proven to provide any clinically meaningful benefit to Alzheimer's."

"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 [Aduhelm] from coverage under the Medicare program until there is definitive evidence that the drug provides substantial... cognitive benefit to Alzheimer’s disease patients."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Eliminating Nuclear Weapons 'Is Not Only Possible, It Is Necessary': UN Chief

"At a moment of rising geopolitical division, mistrust, and outright aggression, we are in danger of forgetting the terrible lessons of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Cold War, and inciting a humanitarian Armageddon," warns António Guterres.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Huge Victory': Starbucks Agrees to Begin Contract Talks With 230+ Union Stores

"We've been ready to bargain since day one," said one union leader, "but now we're operating together on a national level to make sure all of our voices are heard, together."

Jake Johnson ·

Sinema Calls for Restoring 60-Vote Filibuster for Senate Confirmations

"What she's saying," wrote one critic, "is this: 'Let's make what's already the most undemocratic body in government positively anti-democratic by enshrining minority rule.'"

Kenny Stancil ·

On Eve of Senate Vote, Activists Make Last 'Big Push' Against Manchin 'Dirty Deal'

"Our elected congressional representatives cannot bless a backroom deal brokered by fossil fuel industry lobbyists that promises untold damage to American communities like mine," said one frontline activist.

Brett Wilkins ·

'We Aren't Going to War': Draft Officer Shot Amid Russian Anger Over Conscription

A 25-year-old reportedly opened fire at a military recruitment office in Irkutsk after his best friend received draft papers.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo