The first drug purporting to slow the advance of Alzheimer’s disease is likely to cost the U.S. health care system billions annually even as it remains out of reach for many of the lower-income seniors most likely to suffer from dementia.
Medicare and Medicaid patients will make up 92% of the market for lecanemab, according to Eisai Co., which sells the drug under the brand name Leqembi. In addition to the company’s $26,500 annual price tag for the drug, treatment could cost U.S. taxpayers $82,500 per patient per year, on average, for genetic tests and frequent brain scans, safety monitoring, and other care, according to estimates from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER.
… To qualify for Leqembi, patients must undergo a PET scan that looks for amyloid plaques, the protein clumps that clog the brains of many Alzheimer’s patients. About 1 in 5 patients who took Leqembi in the major clinical test of the drug developed brain hemorrhaging or swelling, a risk that requires those taking the drug to undergo frequent medical checkups and brain scans called MRIs … Outstanding doubts about Leqembi and related drugs have given urgency to efforts to monitor patient experiences. CMS is requiring Leqembi patients to be entered into a registry that tracks their outcomes … In a letter to CMS on July 27, a group of policy experts said CMS should ensure that any and all Leqembi registries create and share data detailed enough for researchers and FDA safety teams to obtain a clear picture of the drug’s real-world profile.