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Alzheimer’s drug fails to reach patients, experts say

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 9:18 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm isn’t getting to many patients, and doctors said there are many factors to blame.

The hope created by the FDA approval of the drug is dashed when they see the price tag: $56,000.

The administration granted conditional approval in June, even though the advisory panel didn’t recommend putting it on the market. Now, sales are slower than expected.

Brian Spoelhof, a pharmacist with UVA Health, said they’re not providing it to patients right now.

“What we want here at UVA is first and foremost the safest and most efficacious and most economical medications for our patients. The med itself has some safety concerns, the efficacy hasn’t really been well-established and from a cost perspective, it’s quite expensive,” Spoelhof said.

On top of the hefty price tag, $56,000 only covers a person for a year, and there are additional costs on top of it.

“There’s a lot of associated maintenance and imaging and other care that needs to go with it that would also be costly for patients,” he said.

Spoelhof said he doesn’t know of any insurance companies covering it, so it would be a financial burden for most patients. He said UVA Health isn’t alone in their hesitation.

“We have touched base with a lot of peer hospitals throughout the region and we have found very similar thoughts and processes, so we aren’t aware of many large institutions similar to us that are providing it,” he said.

For now, the future of the medication lies in waiting.

“Many of us are watching closely for an inspection by the office of inspector general into the approval by the FDA to see what information comes from that,” he said.

The drug works to remove the substance in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s. It was the first Alzheimer’s medication approved by the FDA since 2003.

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