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The Associated Press: Why a New Alzheimer’s Drug Is Having a Slow US Debut

The Associated Press (AP) recently interviewed neurologist Sarah Kremen, MD, who leads the Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Trial Program at Cedars-Sinai, about why the recently approved Alzheimer’s medication lecanemab—shown to slow the progression of mild- or early-stage disease—may not be available for patients right away.

Kremen told AP that one of the reasons for the delay is that it can take a year or more for a physician to diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s. Then, the physician must determine whether the patient’s brain has a buildup of amyloid protein disrupting brain function. Lecanemab—marketed under the brand name Leqembi—is administered through an IV and works by removing that protein from the brain.

Physicians also don’t yet know how much the medicine—which can cause brain swelling and bleeding in some people—will improve a patient’s daily life. Though the results of clinical trials are promising, the medication does not reverse cognitive decline; it only slows it. “I think this benefit versus harm issue is going to weigh heavily,” Kremen told AP.

Healthcare providers also must develop a treatment delivery plan and protocols, which takes time. Physicians may not want to prescribe the medicine until that plan is in place, Kremen said. Then there are the additional resources hospitals must have in order to offer the treatment, such as a clinic, nursing, radiology and pharmacy staff. 

“Frankly, the hospital systems are going to have to decide if they want to offer it,” Kremen told AP.

The cost for patients also is steep, at more than $26,000 a year. Insurance coverage options are, so far, limited.

Click here to read the complete article from AP.