Iowa experts optimistic about new Alzheimer's drug

A new drug has just been approved by the FDA to help people with Alzheimer's
Posted at 7:43 PM, Jul 07, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It's a major development in the fight against Alzheimer's: the FDA has granted full approval to a closely-watched drug for patients in the early stages of the disease.

It's called Lequembi; a new FDA-approved drug for which patients with early stages of Alzheimer's are eligible. A study done by the FDA has shown that the drug showed it slows the progression of the disease.

So how do doctors tell that someone is in the early stages of Alzheimer's?

"The person has to feel and be concerned that my capacity to do things has declined compared to what it was previously. The caregiver, also has to agree and feel the same way," said Dr. Yogesh Shah, a board-certified geriatric physician.

That's just one of the ways Shah detects early-onset Alzheimer's in his patients. Another way is performing a basic memory test on patients, such as asking if they recall how far they completed their education.

Jessica Duncan, a local Alzheimer's advocate, welcomes the news that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it would cover the drug treatment.

"This drug is monumental and the ability to have CMS cover it is what makes this announcement so important. This is one of many that is in the pipeline. Even though this won't be perfect for everyone, this is a great stepping stone and opportunity for people who never had coverage quite like this," Duncan said.

If a patient consents to receive Lequembi, Shah said patients will receive IV infusions twice a month for about 18 months.

Rollout of the drug is expected to be soon. According to the manufacturers, Lequembi is expected to cost more than $26,000 a year without insurance. But full FDA approval could expand coverage including for up to a million Medicare patients nationwide.

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