There’s new hope on the horizon for those who have recently received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Lecanemab, known by the brand name Leqembi (“leh-KEM-bee”) was just approved by the FDA on January 6 and it is the second treatment to come out in the last few years that slows down the progression of the disease, says Lauren Livingston, Communications Director for the Alzheimer’s Association in Iowa.
“Over 18 months, the people in the clinical trial saw nearly a 30% slowing down of their cognitive decline, so that means they’re able to have more time with their families, able to drive for longer, able to take care of themselves for longer. It’s really meaningful time for them.”
Livingston stresses that the new drug is a treatment and not a cure, but there have been hardly any treatments or drugs that have been shown to help Alzheimer’s over the past 20 years. “There’s several more along the way very soon so we’re very hopeful about the future. We’re closer than ever to a cure but these are only treatments, and they are only for people right now who have mild cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s.”
Unfortunately, the people who need this treatment the most might not be able to access it. “People need to be able to access this treatment and there is a bit of a roadblock right now,” says Livingston. “Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid ruled that they would not cover these treatments unless someone was going through a clinical trial and unfortunately, many people in the Quad Cities area and across the state of Iowa don’t have access to clinical trials where they’d be able to get these treatments so it would prohibit them from taking the treatment.” Treatment with Leqembi is currently estimated to cost a patient approximately $26,500 per year. “Not many people could do that on their own, so the Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations out there have called on CMS to change that decision based on this new drug. Hopefully they will do that so people are able to access it and then in turn, hopefully regular insurance companies will also say that they will cover it.”
Patients and their families can visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website to find more information on Leqembi, how to talk to their doctors about it and how to advocate with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to access this treatment for themselves or loved ones. Livingston is convinced this outreach by people who are affected will change minds.
” We’re confident that we’ll be able to share the voices of the people who have local ones in those earlier stages now or they just have a family history and want to be able to have this treatment available for them in the future. It’s such a pressing issue because 2,000 people a day are going from the earlier stages of the disease into those later stages so then they aren’t eligible for this treatment anymore. It’s just vital that they change their decision and people are able to access it sooner rather than later.”