The first drug aiming to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, lecanemab (brand name Leqembi), could cost the U.S. health care system billions annually and may not be accessible to many lower-income seniors who are most likely to suffer from dementia. While the drug costs $26,500 annually, treatment could cost an average of $82,500 per patient annually due to necessary genetic tests, brain scans, and safety monitoring in addition to the initial drug cost. Despite these costs and potentially harmful side effects, the drug only slows dementia progression by about five months over an 18-month period.
In an effort to manage these costs, Medicare and Medicaid increased monthly premiums by 15%, which likely will burden the 62 million fixed-income Medicare subscribers. Lecanemab and related care could cost Medicare between $2-5 billion a year, making it one of the most expensive taxpayer-funded treatments. The drug’s manufacturer, Eisai Co., has promised to provide the drug at no cost to patients in financial need.
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[Source: KFF Health News, August 2nd, 2023]