Impacts of FDA approval and Medicare restriction on antiamyloid therapies for Alzheimer's disease: patient outcomes, healthcare costs, and drug development

Elsevier, Lancet Regional Health - Americas, Volume 20, April 2023
Brockmann R., Nixon J., Love B.L., Yunusa I.

In 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval to aducanumab, an antiamyloid antibody for early-stage Alzheimer's disease, despite a lack of clear clinical evidence demonstrating the drug's cognitive benefits. The manufacturer initially priced the drug at a staggering $56,000 per year, a price that was later reduced to $28,200. Unfortunately, these costs do not include the additional expenses associated with monitoring the treatment. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that they will only cover individuals enrolled in clinical trials and will limit coverage of future antiamyloid antibodies. This discrepancy between the FDA and CMS positions has caused confusion and concerns for patients who could potentially benefit from antiamyloid therapy. It is important to acknowledge the clinical and economic uncertainties surrounding aducanumab and its potential impacts on future antiamyloid drug development and approval processes. The FDA's approval, despite limited clinical evidence, raises questions about the integrity and rigor of the approval process. The drug's high cost also raises accessibility concerns, especially for those without insurance or sufficient financial resources. Given the CMS's limited coverage policy, it's critical to evaluate the long-term implications of this decision on future antiamyloid drug development. Without adequate support and coverage from insurance providers, the development and approval of future Alzheimer's treatments may be hindered. In summary, the approval and pricing of aducanumab, coupled with the CMS's limited coverage policy, has created a confusing and concerning landscape for Alzheimer's patients. It's important that stakeholders, including patients, clinicians, insurers, and regulatory bodies, work together to address these challenges and ensure that individuals with Alzheimer's have access to effective, affordable treatments.