FDA approves Alzheimer’s drug found to slow progression of the incurable disease

The drug was found to slow the progression of the memory-robbing condition
Published: Jul. 7, 2023 at 5:29 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A drug proven to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the first time.

This is a major step forward in the fight against the memory-robbing condition that affects millions of Americans every year.

“This is us finally realizing what we have hoped for, for so long which is finding a drug that aids in the early stages of this disease and helps to give people more time with their families, more years of quality of life as the disease progression is slowed with this medication,” said Kate Kahles, program manager for the Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter.

Slowing progression is key for this incurable disease that robs people of their memory and thinking skills.

Getting at the disease’s root cause has been a priority for researchers for decades. Now a new drug called Leqembi does just that for the first time by removing proteins that form plaques on the brain believed to contribute to the disease

A large trial funded by the drug makers found it slowed the progression of the disease by about 27 percent for those with early Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I think they’re estimating it might translate to nine months or more of being able to maintain your thinking abilities at that level. And again, if we have another year of good thinking and can get to those important life events, you know, a lot of my patients would think that’s valuable,” said Dr. Cynthia Carlsson, director of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and UW Health geriatrician.

Dr. Carlsson knows that value all too well as her grandma had dementia. It’s the reason she became an Alzheimer’s researcher and continues to look for a cure through preventative studies.

The Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter said its focus now is about making this new therapy accessible to more people. Drugs without insurance cost more than $26,000 a year.

“Medicare did recently announce a few weeks ago that they would provide coverage if a doctor participated in a registry. And while that was a great move, we still believe that registry shouldn’t be required,” said Kahles. “So with having full FDA approval and not the accelerated approval, but full approval that we have seen this week, that should open the door for more coverage for this medication so that people can benefit from this treatment that’s now available.”

Keep in mind, the drug is only approved for people with early Alzheimer’s disease so early detection is key here.

“Many people for years believed there’s no benefit to getting a diagnosis, even though you know, we have always believed it gives more time for planning. It gives access to clinical trials, all of those great things, but this moves the needle to there is benefit to early detection,” said Kahles. “There’s a benefit for you and your disease progression. And so yes, have those conversations with your doctor, have those conversations with your family, and really take advantage of what the research now has to offer us.”

If you have any questions about the FDA-approved drug, please contact your doctor.

For the first time ever, the FDA granted full approval to a drug designed to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.