LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A recently approved medication for Alzheimer’s disease is making headlines because of its price tag. It costs $56,000 a year.
A brain health researcher at UNLV says this medication is just the beginning of some big advances in medicine.
Around 47,000 Nevadans have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.
“We’re really dealing with a disease that we have to respond to,” said Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, director for Chambers-Grundy Center for Transformative Neuroscience at UNLV.
Until this summer, it had been nearly 20 years since the FDA last approved a medication to fight Alzheimer’s disease.
“The pharmaceutical industry invested $42.5 billion dollars to get; that was the investment from 1995 to when Aduhelm was approved,” Cummings said.
The drug, which is given intravenously, activates the brain’s immune system to remove abnormal protein build-up. But it comes with an expensive price tag.
“It’s not unusual to see that, initially,” Cummings said. “That’s a high price. It’s very similar to what people are paying for cancer drugs.”
Currently, Aduhelm only slows the progression of mild impairment but Cummings says this is just the beginning.
“Right now, we have to use scanning to diagnose the patient properly, well, it looks like we’re going to be able to use blood tests very soon,” he said.
That’s another reason he speculates the price of Aduhelm will eventually go down.
“There are these other drugs that look like they’re working as well. Two of them have already been submitted to the FDA and you know competition is going to force that price down,” Cummings said. “We feel like we’ve turned the corner. That we’re in a whole new era of Alzheimer’s disease.”