The debate over the FDA-approved Alzheimer’s drug showcases our system’s skewed priorities
But more than any potential gains against Alzheimer’s, this FDA approval — and the controversy it has sparked — underscores shortcomings in the U.S. health-care system, which too often prioritizes corporate financial interests over the needs of patients and taxpayers.
Let’s start with the conflict. Three members of an FDA advisory committee have resigned in the wake of the drug’s approval, to which outside advisers had previously objected. Supporters say the medication, called aducanumab, can slow cognitive deterioration in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Critics say there is little evidence the drug is effective. (The treatment does not cure or reverse the disease.) Clinical studies are nebulous; the FDA, which green-lighted the medication under its program for accelerated approval, is requiring follow-up study.
The drug’s maker, the biotech giant Biogen, announced that it would charge $56,000 a year per patient for the treatment. An industry watchdog panel had forecast an $8,300 annual cost; not surprisingly, the news was a boon for Biogen shareholders, with the stock gaining 38 percent the day of the announcement.
Now, guess who will ultimately foot …
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