May 25, 2021 - Health

New Alzheimer's drug could enter the market soon

Illustration of gloved hand holding white pill from a black pill pattern

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new drug to treat Alzheimer's disease may soon enter the market, but getting it to patients could be challenging, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The drug, which is called aducanumab and made by Biogen, is the first Alzheimer's treatment thought to slow the progression of the disease in people who show early signs of cognitive impairment.

  • It could provide a beacon of hope for the millions of Americans who are at risk for the disease, but it'd also present complicated challenges that the health system would have to figure out how to handle.

State of play: The FDA is expected to decide by June 7 whether the drug works well enough to enter the market.

Details: An estimated 88 million Americans 55 and older may be eligible for an initial screening to see if they're candidates for treatment. Of those, 2.4 million may ultimately qualify, according to a 2017 Rand Corp. analysis.

  • The drug is delivered in monthly intravenous infusions, and must be administered to patients early in their disease.
  • It's unclear whether dementia specialists, infusion sites and imaging centers would be able to meet the expected demand, per Bloomberg.
  • The RAND analysis found that diagnosis and delivery hurdles could lead to an average wait time of 18 months for a new Alzheimer's drug like aducanumab.

Additionally, the drug could cost tens of thousands of dollars per year, raising questions about how Medicare and commercial insurers will reimburse for it.

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