Feb 14, 2024 - Health

Biogen sees demand rise for new Alzheimer's drug

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Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

An uptick in demand for the Alzheimer's drug Leqembi provided a bright spot for Biogen on Tuesday as the biotech missed Wall Street expectations and forecast flat sales for 2024.

Why it matters: Biogen continues to feel a financial drag from the withdrawal of its earlier controversial Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm and is trying to affect a turnaround by focusing on newer treatments like Leqembi, which it developed with Japanese drugmaker Eisai.

Details: The company estimated there were 3,800 patients prescribed or close to being prescribed Leqembi as of last week — an increase of about 56% from December, according to an Alzheimer's Association patient registry, per Reuters.

  • But analysts don't expect the drug, which is administered through infusions every two weeks, to hit a target of 10,000 patients by March.
  • "The debate is all about: is Leqembi that massive $6 billion plus product, or is it something that's going to remain niche," William Blair analyst Myles Minter told Reuters.

Flashback: Leqembi last July became the first drug altering Alzheimer's progression to win full approval from the Food and Drug Administration after it was found to have modest success slowing cognitive decline in clinical trials.

  • Medicare administrators agreed to pay for the drug for program beneficiaries if health providers agree to collect and share data about the drug's performance.
  • The FDA still is expected to make a decision soon on another Alzheimer's drug, Eli Lilly's donanemab.
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