Keith Vossel, MD: New Alzheimer’s Drug Raises Hopes — Along With Questions

Dr. Keith Vossel

"The FDA has approved Leqembi, the first disease-modifying treatment for early-stage Alzheimer’s and a precursor condition, mild cognitive impairment. Medicare has said it will pay for the therapy. Medical centers across the country are scrambling to finalize policies and procedures for providing the medication to patients, possibly by summer’s end or early autumn.

It’s a fraught moment, with hope running high for families and other promising therapies such as donanemab on the horizon. Still, medical providers are cautious. “This is an important first step in developing treatments for complex neurodegenerative diseases, but it’s just a first step,” said Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minnesota.

Unanswered questions abound as this new era of treatment begins for mild cognitive impairment and early-stage Alzheimer’s. Will Leqembi’s primary benefit — a slight slowing of decline in cognition and functioning — make a significant difference to patients and family members or will it be difficult to discern? Will its effects accelerate, decelerate, or flatten out over time?

Will demand for Leqembi (the brand name for lecanemab), a monoclonal antibody that requires infusions every two weeks, be robust or restrained? How many older adults in their 70s and 80s will be able and willing to travel to medical centers for infusions twice a month and have regular MRI scans and physician visits to monitor for potential side effects such as brain bleeds or swelling?


In Los Angeles, UCLA Health has set up a multidisciplinary group of specialists, similar to a cancer tumor board, to undertake comprehensive reviews of patients who want to take Leqembi, said Keith Vossel, director of UCLA’s Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Care. They will disqualify people with evidence of more than four microbleeds on brain MRIs, those taking blood thinners, and those with a history of seizures."

Read more at MinnPost KFF Health News.