Regeneron Co-Founder Says, “Forget About That” When Pressed on How Patients and the U.S. Health Care System Will Afford Treatments Priced in the Millions of Dollars

On Wednesday, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos brazenly dismissed concerns with the affordability of Big Pharma products priced in the millions of dollars during a panel discussion with CNBC reporter Bertha Coombs at the Milken Institute’s Future of Health Summit.

Coombs asked Yancopoulos if he thinks highly priced Alzheimer’s treatments with uncertain clinical value might have a “Sovaldi moment,” referencing public outrage directed at Gilead after the company priced their Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi at $1,000 per pill – or $84,000 for a course of treatment. The launch price of Sovaldi was considered unprecedented at the time, though pales in comparison to Big Pharma’s increasingly outrageous launch prices in the year 2022.

“The prevalence of cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is growing,” Coombs said. “I wonder about the crisis when we have this Sovaldi moment. Remember, back in 2014, we suddenly had a drug that actually cured hepatitis C. Amazing, wonderful, but it came at a time when people weren’t quite ready prepared to pay for it and to deal with that.”

“Forget about paying for it, forget about that,” Yancopoulous said in response to boos from the audience.

But here’s my question,” Coombs presses. “What happens when hopefully God willing, we do have a cure and it’s priced at a million dollars? How do we deal with that? Is this system prepared for that? And how do we make that equitable for people?”

I’m sorry, you are so off base, that is so far off the problem,” Yancopoulous says, brazenly dismissing concerns with the impact on patients of Big Pharma launch prices set so high they can increase costs across the entire U.S. health care system.

“I’m sorry but think about how ludicrous your point is,” Yancopoulous continues, before calling for greater returns for Big Pharma companies and massively expanded taxpayer investments in research that subsidizes the development of new blockbuster products for the pharmaceutical industry. “We should start by increasing the NIH budget by tenfold okay and also promoting capital systems that promote increased incentives for innovation.” 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Big Pharma company Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s treatment Aduhelm, despite a lack of consensus on the clinical value of the treatment, resulted in its manufacturer setting a punitive launch price on the treatment and premiums increasing for every Medicare Part B beneficiary. The estimated impact of the egregiously priced treatment with unproven clinical value on the U.S. health care system led the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to balance coverage until more data on efficacy could be produced.

Big Pharma companies have increasingly been setting out-of-control launch prices on new products to boost profits on treatments with the longest shelf-life of market exclusivity.

Watch the full exchange between Regeneron’s co-founder and MSNBC’s Bertha Coombs HERE.

Learn more about bipartisan, market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable HERE.

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