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FDA approves new Alzheimer’s drug, but its price tag is raising concerns among advocates

New Alz. Drug
Posted at 11:15 AM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-09 16:46:13-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- According to the Alzheimer’s Association about 1 in 9 people ages 65 and older have Alzheimer’s. A new breakthrough is giving people hope, but the cost is raising concern.

The new drug called Leqembi was fast tracked by the FDA for approval on Friday. Results from clinical trials showed a 27 percent decrease in cognitive decline for patients early in their diagnosis.

"In rigorous clinical trials the drug was shown to remove amyloid plaque from the brain which is one of the hallmarks for Alzheimer's disease, " Natalie Sutton, the Executive Director for Alzheimer Association of Greater Indiana, said.

Olivia Purevich knows first-hand how devastating the news can be to have a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her grandmother and father both passed away after suffering with Alzheimer’s for several years.

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Olivia Purevich and her dad, Roger McClellan
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After several misdiagnosis her dad was diagnosed in his 50’s — an age considered young for the disease.

"It was good to know ok this is why dad has been acting different it is in fact Alzheimer's,” Olivia Purevich said. “Then again there is no treatment and so it is a feeling of hopelessness. “

While the new breakthrough gives Olivia hope, if she or any other of her loved ones might suffer from the disease in the future the treatment comes at a cost. The company puts the price tag at over $26,000 a year.

"I definitely couldn't afford that out of pocket so that's a huge issue,” Purevich said. “It's got to be widely available, and it can't be available for just rich people because that's not fair."

She and the Alzheimer’s Association hope the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as private insurance will cover the drug so more people can have more time with their loved ones.

"There is hope in the research portion but I really ask that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the insurances companies; this has got to be more widely available," Purevich said.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Friday that following the FDA’s decision it will quickly review the new drug, but insurance coverage of the drug is not guaranteed. This new treatment is expected to be available later this month.

"For so long there have been limited to no options to treat the disease and so these two drugs provide such hope for families and just the idea that someone with Alzheimer's dementia may be able to experience more time with their families," Sutton said.

The first drug, Aduhelm, was approved in 2021.

If your loved one is suffering with the disease, the Alzheimer’s Association has resources for you. Click here for more information. There is also a 24-hour helpline available by calling 800.272.3900.

For more information about the drug click here.