In Quiet Debut, Alzheimer's Drug Rollout Slowed By Questions, Skepticism

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Persistent concerns about Aduhelm, the disease's first new treatment in about 20 years, are curbing access more than four months after regulators approved it.
The first new Alzheimer's treatment in more than 20 years was hailed as a breakthrough when regulators approved it more than four months ago, but its rollout has been slowed by questions about its price and how well it works.

Several major medical centers remain undecided on whether to use Biogen's Aduhelm, which is recommended for early stages of the disease. Big names like the Cleveland Clinic and Mass General Brigham in Boston say they'll pass on it for now.

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One neurology practice has even banned the company's sales reps from its offices, citing concerns about the drug and its price, which can climb past $50,000 annually.

Many doctors say they need to learn more about how Aduhelm works and what will be covered before they decide whether to offer it. That might take several months to sort out. Even then, questions may linger.

"The drug won't be for everybody, even with access," said Salim Syed, an analyst who covers Biogen for Mizuho Securities USA.

Syed estimates that only around one-tenth of the people diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's may wind up taking Aduhelm chronically, especially if regulators approve similar treatments from Biogen's competitors.

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Biogen, which reports third-quarter financial results Wednesday, is not saying how many people have received the drug since it was approved on June 7. A company executive said last month that Biogen was aware of about 50 sites infusing Aduhelm, far fewer than the 900 the company had said it expected to be ready shortly after regulators approved the drug.

Aduhelm is the first in a line of new drugs that promise to do what no other Alzheimer's treatment has managed: slow the progress of the fatal brain-destroying disease instead of just managing its symptoms.

"It's like a breath of fresh air," said Dr. Stephen Salloway, a Rhode Island neurologist and Biogen consultant who is prescribing the drug. People with Alzheimer's "know what's coming, and they want to do whatever…
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