Biogen offers free Alzheimer's drug as Medicare payment uncertainty remains

www.reuters.com
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Biogen Inc (BIIB.O) is providing its controversial and expensive new Alzheimer's drug free of charge for some patients amid slow claim reviews by Medicare, according to sources familiar with the situation, including a doctor treating patients with the drug.
A sign marks a Biogen facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Aug 30 (Reuters) -

The development underscores the division among doctors about whether the $56,000-a-year drug helps patients and how uncertainty about reimbursement from Medicare, the U.S. government health plan for people over age 65, has held back prescriptions and sales.

Aduhelm, which is given as a monthly infusion, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June even though one of Biogen's two large clinical trials failed to show a benefit for patients diagnosed with the incurable mind-wasting disease.

In order to expedite treatment, Biogen has begun to provide Florida's First Choice Neurology with free-of-charge Aduhelm, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gelblum, a neurologist at the center's Aventura, Florida, operations.

"We have been using the Biogen access program - it is almost like a sample program - to get patients started," he told Reuters.

Biogen has said it has a number of plans in place to support patient access, but did not give further details.

Pharmaceutical companies can provide free medications through patient assistance programs, "however we have never heard of that for an injectable, infused drug," Steven Lucio, vice president at Vizient Inc, which works with about half of U.S. hospitals to buy drugs, said in an email.

James Chambers, a researcher at the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health…
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