People should consider the possible side effects of Lecanemab before starting the drug regimen.
Prescriptions tend to come with numerous potential side effects.
Watch any drug commercial on television, and you will hear a pleasant voice sharing a lengthy list of these risks at the very end.
Often, it may seem as if the risks outweigh the benefits of a medication.
These possible side effects may be worth those risks for those experiencing the condition targeted by the drug.
According to a recent Prevention article titled “All About Lecanemab, the New FDA-Approved Alzheimer’s Drug,“ those with Alzheimer’s may need to weigh risk factors before taking Lecanemab.
What is Lecanemab?
This prescription is a newly approved drug for treating Alzheimer’s.
Although approved by the FDA, the drug has been found to come with major risks of brain swelling and bleeding, according to Amit Sazchdev, M.D., who is the principal investigator for the Lecanemab clinical trial program at Michigan State University and the medical director for neurology and ophthalmology at Michigan State University.
A recent study found the most common side effects of the drug Lecanemab include infusion-related reactions, headaches, and amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA).
What exactly are ARIA?
These abnormalities generally present as temporary swelling in parts of the brain visible in imaging studies.
The swelling can co-occur with small spots of bleeding in or on the surface of the brain.
In most instances, these subside over time.
Even so, the risks of ARIA can be high.
It may lead to life-threatening brain swelling and correspond with seizures and other serious neurological symptoms.
Brain bleeding may be fatal when it occurs.
These side effects were noted during the clinical trial for Lecanemab.
In phase three of the trial, researchers noted that Lecanemab caused ARIA in 12.6 percent of the patients and infusion-related reactions in more than 26 percent.
Brain bleeding was also higher in the trial group compared to the placebo group.
Only 9 percent of those given the placebo had brain bleeding, while more than 17 percent taking Lecanemab experienced brain bleeding.
What does this mean?
Lecanemab should only be prescribed to those who have a clear and uncontroversial diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Those taking the drug must also have easy access to emergency care to address the side effects of brain bleeding and swelling.
Even minor neurological symptoms of headaches and dizziness can be the result of swelling in the brain.
Another current concern for Lecanemab is insurance coverage.
The cost of the drug without insurance could be more than $26,000 annually.
According to Medicaid and Medicare, Lecanemab should be able to be covered by these programs when the drug is at least relatively affordable for a large range of individuals.
With high costs financially and high risks medically, why would anyone choose to take Lecanemab?
This drug is the first prescription shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and has been approved by the FDA.
Although the benefits seem good and the risks seem high, people should understand the effects of the drug can vary for each patient.
As Ronald Reagan, who himself had Alzheimer’s, put it in the context of nuclear arms reduction during the Cold War, “Trust but verify.”
Reference: Prevention (July 8, 2023) “All About Lecanemab, the New FDA-Approved Alzheimer’s Drug“