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FDA to grant full approval for Alzheimer's medication Lecanemab

Posted at 8:52 PM, Jul 05, 2023

We've hit a major medical milestone for people living with Alzheimer's Disease.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to give full approval to a drug called Lecanemab on July 6th.

Medical centers across the nation are preparing for a large influx of calls.

Dr. Zaldy Tan is the director of the Memory and Aging Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

He says Lecanemab is the first disease-modifying therapy for Alzheimer's Disease.

Up until now, we only had therapies to help treat symptoms.

It's not a cure, but it does mean a bit more time with loved ones because it slows the progression of the disease.

"The estimates are still preliminary, but the estimates are that the slowing is equivalent to about six months after 18 months of therapy," Dr. Tan said. "So for some people, that six months is fairly modest and may not be noticeable. But for some people, the six months may mean being able to attend a wedding or attending a grandson's graduation or taking a trip."

It slows the progression by eating abnormal proteins called amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brain of somebody with Alzheimer's.

However, Dr. Tan says it's only been effective in patients who have mild or moderate Alzheimer's Disease.

Without insurance, the medication is estimated to cost $26,000 dollars a year. That doesn't include additional costs like follow-up testing and what it takes to administer the drug.

"The reason why the FDA announcement about this medication is so important is because the center for Medicare and Medicaid, which is the largest insurer of older Americans, have stated that if this medication receives full FDA approval, that they are planning to cover it," Dr. Tan said.

Dr. Tan says private insurers typically look to medicare when making their own decisions regarding coverage.

Even if the cost is covered, something else to consider is the commitment. Lecanemab needs to be administered every two weeks at an infusion center for 18 months.

Nonetheless, Dr. Tan says he hopes this medication will open up a pathway for more effective, safer, and less costly medications in the future.