LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The United States Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new drug that could help treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but some say it is so expensive that most patients can’t afford it.
Around 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s each year. The new drug is called Aduhelm, and while millions of people could potentially be eligible for it for Alzheimer’s treatment, at a cost of about $56,000 a year per person, it’s financially out of reach for most.
Researchers say Aduhelm addresses the disease in a way that’s never been done before. It can remove the protein amyloid from the brain, which would delay a clinical decline in people living with the Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“Amyloid is the protein that clumps into the sticky brain plaques that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease,” Alzheimer’s Association – Arkansas Executive Director Kirsten Dickens explained.
For people like 67-year-old Mark Aloway, who has early onset dementia, this is really good news.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “I got all excited, and then I found out how much it cost, and then I said, ‘Something’s got to happen.’”
The monthly infusion of the medication would cost patients about $5,000. Aloway is questioning how he would be able to cover that level of expense.
“I don’t know if Medicare is going to pick it up, (if) Medicaid will pick it up, or even, me being retired military, if Tricare will help pick it up,” he said.
The company Biogen sets the price, and as it stands now, the cost is a barrier to access for many patients. Dickens said her groups and others are looking to change that.
“The Alzheimer’s Association has called on Biogen to change the price or to look at that,” she explained.
While the debate over cost continues, Aloway isn’t sure the drug will help him in his lifetime. Still, he thinks the benefits could be there for others long term.
“I know it’s going to help my children and my grandchildren, and that’s what I’m hoping for,” he said. “It’s been so long since we’ve had anything to be hopeful for. This is hope.”
It is that hope for people and their families who just to hold on a bit longer with their loved ones that Aolway is looking to this drug to provide.
“Anything that’s going to slow it down is going to give me a lot more time for my family and my wife and my kids to do what we want to do,” he said. “I want to have these golden years.”