The FDA recently granted accelerated approval for a new drug, Lecanemab, which is designed to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The decision has generated much interest and speculation in the medical community regarding its potential impact on healthcare systems and patients worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, over 55 million people have dementia globally, with nearly 10 million new cases yearly. Dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form, is the seventh leading cause of death globally and a major cause of disability and dependency among older people. The disease is particularly burdensome for women, who provide 70 percent of care hours for people with dementia.
Mayo Clinic neurologist Ronald Petersen, Director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, notes that Alzheimer’s disease is likely the costliest in the US, with an estimated US$300 billion spent per year on direct and indirect costs. “However, the true toll is on the patients and the families,” he explained.
Regarding the new drug, Dr. Petersen said that it is designed to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease over time rather than stop or cure it. He emphasized that it is an initial step towards treating a complex disorder like Alzheimer’s and noted that combination therapy would likely be necessary to treat the disease effectively.
While the FDA has granted accelerated approval for Lecanemab, the drug is not yet used significantly in the US due to its cost. The FDA will decide on full, traditional approval by July 6, 2023, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will then decide on coverage.
In the UAE, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to be around 2.2 per cent of the population over 65 years old.
According to Dr.Petersen, for the past 20 years, physicians have been using symptomatic drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
“We believe that the approval of the recent disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease is an initial step toward treating these complex disorders,” Dr. Petersen said. “We are hopeful that the future for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease will be bright.”
The approval of Lecanemab represents a significant step forward in treating Alzheimer’s disease. While the drug is not yet widely available, its potential impact on patients and healthcare systems worldwide is significant.