Lecanemab for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved lecanemab for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease at the earliest symptomatic stages. This medication is one of the first disease-modifying therapies approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease in the United States.

Lecanemab FAQs

When Will Lecanemab (Leqembi) Be Available?

Marketed as Leqembi, lecanemab is now available to appropriate patients and covered by most insurance plans.

What is Lecanemab?

Lecanemab slows the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. It dissolves plaques that can build up between brain cells, or neurons, and are widely thought to cause Alzheimer’s symptoms. More technically, it is a monoclonal antibody targeting beta-amyloid. These amyloids can for the plaques that can interfere with brain function.

What Are Anti-amyloid Therapies?

Anti-amyloid therapies are medications designed to remove a protein called beta-amyloid from the brain. This protein is thought to be involved in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.

How Is Lecanemab Administered?

It is given through a vein every two weeks and has been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by about 30%.

Who Is Eligible for Lecanemab?

Lecanemab is indicated for patients with Alzheimer’s in the mild or early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. An assessment of medical history, a magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) and minor blood work are required to determine whether lecanemab is appropriate for you. Additional testing such as a spinal fluid examination though a PET scan and a genetic test can determine the risk of irregularities significant enough to show up in imaging tests (amyloid-related imaging abnormalities, or ARIA).

How Do I Get a Prescription for Lecanemab?

If you think you are eligible for lecanemab, talk to your primary care provider, neurologist or memory care provider. Your provider can make a referral to the Norton Neuroscience Institute Memory Center to determine whether you are eligible.

How Does Lecanemab Compare to Other Alzheimer’s Treatments?

There are a number of medications in development to treat Alzheimer’s disease. While all of these medications target amyloid development, lecanemab targets the protofibrils that may be the most toxic form of amyloid.

What Are Some of the Potential Lecanemab Side Effects?

Infusion reactions: About a quarter of patients will experience a mild infusion reaction. Symptoms might include fever, headache, rash, nausea or abdominal discomfort. These symptoms can usually be controlled with medications such as Tylenol of Benadryl if necessary.

Amyloid related imaging abnormalities (ARIA): ARIA is a condition that indicates swelling or bleeding in the brain. This occurs in about 2 in 10 people receiving lecanemab, though most often causes no symptoms and resolves without any treatment. However, more severe cases can occur, leading to symptoms such as headache, confusion, visual changes, dizziness, nausea and seizures. In rare cases, this can lead to death.
Because of the risk of bleeding, this medication is not recommended for patients receiving strong blood thinners. Also, those receiving lecanemab should not receive clot-busting medications.

What Is Involved if I Am Eligible for Treatment With Lecanemab?

Lecanemab is given intravenously (IV) every two weeks in an infusion center. The infusion takes less than an hour with a period of monitoring for reactions after. Home infusions may be an option after an initial series of center-based infusions. Repeat MRI scans can be completed 3 to 4 times during the first year to monitor for any side effects.

Is Lecanemab a Cure for Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia?

Lecanemab will not improve memory but appears to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The goal is that individuals receiving this medication will retain their memory and cognitive function longer.
Ultimately, the FDA approval of this drug makes it more accessible to patients through Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. As more patients are prescribed the drug, more research and clinical trials can advance the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Eradication of the disease is the hope.
“I think it is a very significant step forward for our field. It’s the first time that we have had a medication with very solid evidence that it is really modifying the course of this disease and, at least as many of us think, treating the underlying causes of this disease.” Gregory Cooper, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the Norton Neuroscience Institute Memory Center.

Does Insurance Cover Lecanemab?

The FDA has granted approval for this medication as of July 6th, 2023 and it is currently covered by Medicare. Norton Healthcare is in the process of clarifying issues related to insurance reimbursement and requirements for patients receiving lecanemab to be enrolled in a registry. Norton Healthcare plans to begin offering this medication in the fall of 2023.

Reviewed by Gregory Cooper, M.D., Ph.D.

Care That’s Focused on You

It’s part of Norton Neuroscience Institute’s goal to care for the whole person, not just the condition.

  • Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Centers offer ways to improve your access to care, provide valuable information on managing your disease and address your quality of life issues. The Norton Healthcare Foundation funds this important service, so patients don’t need to pay.
  • Dedicated patient navigators can help schedule follow-up appointments, coordinate prescription assistance, create customized diet plans and provide guidance on disability benefits, housing, financial and employment concerns and more.
  • Patients can access support groups, exercise classes and other educational events to connect with others and learn how to make the most of life while managing a neurological condition. 
  • Access an on-demand video library of educational content across a variety of condition related topics is available.
  • We want to help prevent illness. Get help quitting smoking and learn the signs of stroke.
  • Communicate with your provider, manage appointments, refill prescriptions and more anytime from a computer or mobile device with a free Norton MyChart account.

A Louisville Leader in Neurological Care

More patients from Louisville and Southern Indiana seek their neurology and neurosurgery care from Norton Neuroscience Institute’s nationally recognized specialists than any other providers in the area.

Your Norton Neuroscience Institute medical provider has the expertise, experience, diagnostic tools and sophisticated treatments to provide care tailored to your needs.

  • More than 75 medical, surgical and research specialists are dedicated to providing innovative care to those with brain, spine and nervous system conditions.
  • Advanced, minimally invasive neurosurgery equipment can speed your recovery and minimize pain.
  • Multidisciplinary clinics provide easy access to care in one convenient appointment for your neurological condition, with specialists in oncology, cardiology, orthopedics and behavioral health.
  • Norton Healthcare’s four adult-service hospitals in Louisville are certified by DNV, recognizing excellence and expertise in stroke care.
    • Norton Brownsboro Hospital is recognized as a Comprehensive Stroke Center.
    • Norton Audubon Hospital and Norton Hospital are Primary Stroke Centers.
    • Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital is an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital.
  • The American Heart Association Get With the Guidelines stroke care program has recognized all four of Norton Healthcare’s adult service-hospitals in Louisville for exceeding national averages in getting patients in the door and administering lifesaving treatment to restore blood flow to the brain.
  • Norton Neuroscience Institute’s multiple sclerosis (MS) program has been designated a Center for Comprehensive MS Care by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
  • The National Association of Epilepsy Centers has recognized Norton Neuroscience Institute as a Level 4 Epilepsy Center, providing the highest level of medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.
  • Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center navigators help educate patients and their families about new diagnoses, available treatments and ways to manage their disease.
  • We are listed by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of 100 great neurosurgery and spine programs.

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