Groundbreaking Alzheimer’s drug being dropped by manufacturer

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

The drug Aduhelm has a complicated history. It was greeted with great hope as a treatment for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. In 2021, the FDA gave it fast-track approval, that means a green light. It was the first new drug for Alzheimer’s in 18 years. Now, it’s being dropped by the manufacturer.

This leaves patients, like Lee County resident Gary Longordo in a precarious position. He spoke with WINK News health and medical reporter in 2022 while he was taking the drug during the trial phase. “I think it’s helped me in my mental stage and in my physical stage,” Longordo said.

The CEO and President of Biogen, Christopher Viehbacher released a statement earlier this year, saying part, ” Biogen is reprioritizing resources.” The company went on to say it was choosing to advance another promising drug called Leqembi.

Stefanie Wardlow is a senior program manager with the Florida Alzheimer’s Association. “They made an announcement that they are going to discontinue providing Aduhelm, that will actually start pretty soon,” Wardlow said. “If individuals are in a clinical trial, it’s going to end May 1; if they’re receiving it via prescription, it’s going to end on November 1.”

Although he didn’t experience any of these side effects, the drug Longordo takes is linked to issues including brain swelling and bleeds. Medicare refused to cover it. Wardlow says this move is a sign that better drugs are entering the marketplace. “This class of medication that is looking to get rid of or clear out amyloid beta in the brain is only getting better.”

Many patients find that slim consolation, as they will have to start on new therapies. Gary’s wife Karen spoke with our reporter and said in the 30 months he’s been on Aduhelm, the plaque in his brain has disappeared. Based on his results, he may not need treatment for several years.

If and when that happens, he’ll be forced to find another solution.

In order to discontinue the drug Aduhelm, Biogen paid a one-time, 60 million dollar fee to close the program and returned rights to the company that invented it.

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