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What new Alzheimer's drugs can promise patients

In this picture, a 84 years old Alzheimers patient enjoys a swing in the village Landais Alzheimer site for Alzheimers patients in Dax, southwestern France.
In this picture, a 84 years old Alzheimers patient enjoys a swing in the village Landais Alzheimer site for Alzheimers patients in Dax, southwestern France.

A new drug called donanemab has been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s by 35 percent. That’s even better than another drug, lecanemab, approved by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month.

Still, both are a far cry from a cure, leaving critics wondering what will be the true benefits of these drugs. These drugs do have side effects in some patients.

“The earlier you can get in there, the more you can impact it before they’ve already declined and they’re on this fast slope,” Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Eli Lilly’s chief medical and scientific officer, told The New York Times.

Access will also vary for patients. The yearly cost for Leqembi is more than $26,000, though Medicare will likely cover 80 percent of that.

Critics also say the promise of these drugs could take focus away from preventative and palliative measures.

“The most likely consequence of [Lequembi] is to take resources and attention away from addressing basic supports for older adults with cognitive impairment,” Maria Glymour, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health told Kaiser Health News.

We discuss these drugs with doctors, patients, and clinical researchers.

Copyright 2023 WAMU 88.5

Anna Casey, June Leffler