First Drug to Slow Alzheimer's Gets Fully Funded by FDA

October 6, 2023

A Breakthrough in Alzheimer’s Treatment  

The news is spreading fast, so you have probably heard about a new Alzheimer's drug on the market. Leqembi, an Alzheimer’s drug, is the first drug fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Alzheimer's treatment. Let’s take a closer look at this new medication, how it works, why its approval is important, and who can benefit.  

The Significance of FDA Approval 

The reason it’s a big deal that this medication has been approved by the FDA is that it makes it more affordable and available to people who need it. Leqembi is the brand name for the generic Lecanemab, and it was given accelerated approval by the FDA in January. This approval was based on the drug’s ability to remove beta-amyloid, a protein that can cause nerve damage, from the brains of people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. While Leqembi had only accelerated approval, Medicare would only pay for it within clinical trials. Now that the FDA has given it full approval, most of the medication’s cost will be covered. Leqembi had only accelerated approval, Medicare would only pay for it within clinical trials. Now that the FDA has given it full approval, most of the medication’s cost will be covered.  

How Leqembi Works

So, is Leqembi a cure for dementia? No, but it holds promise for those with early symptoms of Alzheimer's. This medication has been shown to slow the progression of the disease, decelerating signs of Alzheimer’s like declines in memory and thinking, and it’s the first medication that’s proven effective in accomplishing this. It does this by targeting the underlying biology of the disease and dramatically reducing beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. It can remove plaque that has already formed, as well as preventing plaque from forming, and there are high hopes that, sometime in the future, this type of drug could actually prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, this drug is not currently a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and it does not prevent people with Alzheimer’s from getting worse. It just slows the disease, giving them extra time with higher cognitive function.  

However, this does not mean it isn’t an effective treatment. To understand how it works, one must have a grasp of the mechanics of Alzheimer’s disease. The hallmark of Alzheimer's is the accumulation of beta amyloid proteins in the brain. Clumping together, these proteins form plaques that destroy neurons, damaging the brain’s communication system. Leqembi is a monoclonal antibody, and it works by binding to these plaques, breaking them apart. The medication triggers the body’s immune system to clear beta-amyloid protein before it can reach toxic levels, and this slows the progress of Alzheimer's disease. Leqembi is only the second treatment on the market with an anti-amyloid focus, and it shows promise in reducing cognitive decline.  

What to Expect from a Leqembi Treatment 

The medication is given through infusions, every two weeks. Notably, for individuals who do not wish to travel to medical facilities, a nurse can administer these infusions in the patient’s home as part of in-home nursing services. The infusion process takes about an hour to complete. It can take several months for the drug to take full effect, and progress is likely to be slow.  

Who is eligible to take Leqembi? 

Leqembi is not for people in the late stages of Alzheimer's. Rather, it should be given to those showing early signs of Alzheimer's, who have mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia. It is also not meant for those without symptoms. Before being given this medication, individuals should be carefully screened, to rule out any contraindications.  

Cost Concerns 

One concern about this medication is its cost. Leqembi is extremely expensive, though for most people, Medicare will cover the bulk of the cost, since the drug has been given FDA approval. In some cases, however, especially for individuals not covered by Medicare, the drug is likely to be out of reach, simply because of the price tag attached. The medication is expected to cost $26,500 per year, and that cost can go as high as $90,000 per year when the total costs of related treatment, including brain scans, are added. Even with Medicare, individuals could end up paying as much as $6,600 per year.  

A Promising Outlook for Alzheimer's Treatment 

Leqembi shows promise, though it has not yet been studied for those in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease. The approval of this medication is revolutionary, because it’s the first drug of its kind to receive FDA approval. What’s even more exciting, however, is the amount of research being done to combat this disease. Currently, there are 172 active clinical trials, evaluating 143 medications for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers in the field are feeling a renewed optimism as they work towards finding ways to slow, reverse, or even prevent this devastating illness.  

BrightStar Care® Provides Expert Alzheimer's Care 

At BrightStar Care, we keep up with evolving research so that we can give our clients the very best care. We are committed to providing care for all stages of Alzheimer’s disease, assisting clients and their families when they need our care. Whether you are looking for in-home care or residential community living for seniors, our experienced team members are here for you and your family.

Find a location near you, contact us online, or call 866.618.7827 to speak with a local care expert and learn more about how BrightStar Care offers A Higher Standard®️.