FDA approves new Alzheimer’s treatment for early-stage patients

Leqembi, the second approved treatment, addresses the underlying conditions and changes the course of Alzheimer’s within one’s body.
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 8:39 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Addressing the sixth leading cause of death in America, a new treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people with early stages of the disease in hopes to slow the progression of symptoms.

According to data that can be found in a report from the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2022, approximately 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older were living with Alzheimer’s Disease, with an additional 200,000 people believed to have had the disease under the age of 65. In 2020, approximately 180,000 North Carolina residents were believed to have Alzheimer’s, with that number expected to climb to 210,000 in 2025, a 16.7% increase in five years.

In 2019, Alzheimer’s Disease was responsible for 4,508 deaths in N.C., according to the report.

Leqembi, the second approved treatment, addresses the underlying conditions and changes the course of Alzheimer’s within one’s body. Although, the cost and accessibility remain an issue for many.

Paying out of pocket can cost an estimated $26,500 a year. Some experts say that the total is far above what it should be, stating that the drug could cost as little as $8,500 a year.

While some private insurance companies may agree to cover the costs, there’s another eligibility issue. In 2021, Medicare set a requirement that the patient needs to be enrolled in a clinical trial to receive FDA Alzheimer’s treatments. If they don’t qualify, they can’t receive the new drug.

The Alzheimer’s Association is working hard to get this requirement dropped because each day that passes, more than 2,000 patients exit the early stages and move to more advanced Alzheimer’s.

Pat Ward, the wife of an Alzheimer’s patient, says all they want is a chance.

“I guess we’re looking for a little more time with them. That’s what we’re looking for, and if a drug can give us that, I know it can’t solve the problem, but it can give us a little more time. That’s really worth it,” said Ward.

Mike Ward, Pat’s husband, was diagnosed two years ago when they were living in Pennsylvania. Since moving here, the disease has progressed and they said that it’s been difficult to get treatment. The major struggle is finding an Alzheimer’s doctor that is accepting new patients.

Although there is still no cure for the disease, this new treatment has slowed cognitive decline by as much as 27%, which could mean more months or years without severe symptoms.

For the treatment itself, it is administered through an IV every two weeks, about 45 to 60 minutes each time. However, there’s no answer on how long each person needs to seek treatment because each patient is different.

Lisa Roberts, the executive director of the Eastern North Carolina Alzheimer’s Association, explained what the drug is doing once inside the body.

“This type of dementia clogs the brain, the beta-amyloid plaque, it’s very sticky and it makes it that the connections are not being made. The breakthrough of this particular treatment is that it is not just affecting the symptoms, it’s going after the plaque. It’s going after the biological underlying of the disease and that’s why it’s such exciting news for the latest treatment,” said Roberts.

This breakthrough brings hope to many Alzheimer’s patients, allowing them to take steps to slow the pace of the disease.