Jun 17, 2021 - Health

Aduhelm will balloon America's health spending

Projected drug share of national health spending
Reproduced from Altarum; Chart: Axios Visuals

Aduhelm, the Alzheimer's treatment controversially approved by the FDA, won't just put Medicare's budget in peril. The $56,000-per-year drug could single-handedly represent one percentage point of all health care spending by next year, according to an analysis from Altarum.

Why it matters: Americans already pay more for health care than any other country. But since Aduhelm is not close to being a cure — and not even proven to halt the progression of Alzheimer's — "the resultant growth in spending will therefore be sustained for the foreseeable future," Altarum researchers wrote.

By the numbers: Aduhelm, an IV medication administered in hospitals and infusion centers, will raise spending on all prescription drugs by 8% in the next few years, Altarum forecasts.

Flashback: Drug spending shot up by 12% in 2014 after Gilead's pricey hepatitis C pills, Sovaldi and Harvoni, hit the market.

  • But sales of hepatitis C medicines have declined since most people are cured after one round of treatment. That wouldn't be the case with Aduhelm.

Worth noting: The analysis doesn't factor in additional spending on PET scans, MRIs, facility fees, and other procedures and tests associated with administering Aduhelm.

Go deeper: The drug that could break American health care

Go deeper