March 14, 2023 -- The Veterans Health Administration will cover the costs of drug treatment Leqembi, the manufacturer Eisai has announced.
Veterans in the early stages of the memory-depleting disease Alzheimer’s who meet VHA criteria will be eligible, Eisai said in a statement. The company is developing the drug with Biogen.
The VHA’s website says veterans must be seniors, sign a consent form, have undergone an MRI in the past year, and have PET scan or spinal tap test results consistent with the disease.
The VHA is the country’s largest health system, serving 9 million veterans every year, CNBC reported. Some 168,000 veterans had Alzheimer’s last year, the government says.
Medicare has declined coverage of the medicine, which costs $26,500 a year. The FDA approved Leqembi on an expedited basis in January.
CNBC says Medicare has agreed to broader coverage of Leqembi when the drug receives full FDA approval. Eisai and Biogen say they expect a decision in July.
The drug slowed cognitive decline in people with early Alzheimer’s by 27% in a late-stage trial, CNBC reported. It is administered as an IV infusion twice a month and targets brain plaque associated with the disease. It carries a risk of causing brain swelling and bleeding.
“This is an important step toward access to medically necessary and beneficial treatments for people living with mild cognitive impairment,” Joanne Pike, CEO and president of the Alzheimer's Association, said in a release. “Each day matters to someone living with early-stage Alzheimer's when it comes to slowing the progression of this disease.”