Biogen has certainly faced an uphill battle trying to convince physicians to prescribe the drugmaker’s highly scrutinized Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm. It doesn't make it any easier if clinics won’t even let the company's sales reps through the front door.
But that’s the case at the Neurology Center in Washington, D.C., which has gone so far as to ban Biogen employees from entering their seven office locations in response to the controversy shrouding the company’s new med.
“Biogen representatives should not enter or engage staff, physicians or patients,” according to an image of one of the clinic’s signs posted to Twitter, which Fierce Pharma has confirmed with the center.
The warning is just the latest example of the frosty reception Aduhelm has received since scoring an FDA nod in June. That accelerated approval, as well as Biogen’s immediate decision to price the treatment on the high end of Wall Street’s expectations, has sparked fiery criticism and even a few federal investigations.
Part of those inquiries are related to the company's reportedly cozy relationship with regulators ahead of Aduhelm’s approval. The FDA signed off on the treatment despite its divergent late-stage trial results and an overwhelming down vote from the agency’s own advisory committee. Three of those members later resigned in protest.
Given Aduhelm’s hefty price tag—an average of $56,000 annually per patient—and its murky clinical benefits, the Neurology Center’s physicians have agreed to avoid administering the drug until its controversies are clarified, according to a note on its website.
“We weren’t going to have that at all. We weren’t going to engage it,” a center spokesperson told Fierce Pharma when asked about the clinic's sign.
For its part, Biogen has itself acknowledged Aduhelm’s rollout has been even more gradual than the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company would've liked.
At a Morgan Stanley healthcare event earlier this month, CEO Michel Vounatsos said there's "clearly too much confusion, misinformation and controversy surrounding our data and the approval process."
When asked about the center’s sign, a Biogen spokesperson told Fierce Pharma the company encourages any patient denied care to contact the company for help, adding that it remains “committed to supporting access to Aduhelm for all appropriate patients.”
Although just one example, the Neurology Center’s stance could reflect a bigger problem for Biogen, which has more neurology meds than just Aduhelm, Mizuho analyst Salim Syed wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. Syed pointed out that it was the first time he saw a clinic categorically blocking the company from entering.
Aduhelm still "remains commercially volatile at best,” Syed wrote. And even after the company’s investor R&D day, where it spent four hours and 133 slides laying out its pipeline, the drugmaker did not present a "clear case for growth" outside of its key Alzheimer's drug, according to the note.