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Two-thirds of neurologists surveyed early this month said that they expect to have some patients started on the new Alzheimer’s disease drug aducanumab (Aduhelm) by March 2022.

The outlook for the use of the drug is looking up, according to surveyor Spherix Global Insight. There are small increases in the number of Aduhelm prescribers and an uptick in patients for whom the therapy has been initiated. This is compared with flat activity seen in the first two months of availability.

And based on survey data analysis, Spherix expects the prescriber base for the drug, which was federally approved in July, to grow by almost 50% over the next month.

“Despite the controversy surrounding the accelerated FDA approval pathway, one in seven patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are considered potential candidates for the new brand,” Spherix reported.

The findings paint a rosier picture than do those of some other studies, which have focused on patients who are not eligible for the drug. In a new review of Medicare data, for example, physician-researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that the majority of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease would have been excluded in Biogen’s clinical trials of the drug due to comorbidities and age. 

“The public conversation on aducanumab has focused on limited benefit and high costs; it is equally important to consider that the majority of patients with Alzheimer’s disease are likely to face higher risks of adverse events than the patients studied in the trials,” the study team wrote in a research letter in JAMA

A long-term care physicians’ advocacy group does not recommend that the drug be used in its member settings before more testing in this population occurs. AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine also cited the high potential risks to patients.

Another possible barrier to the launch of Aduhelm is neurologists’ perception of a restrictive market, which includes questionable insurance coverage, Spherix noted. Physicians believe that they already are knowledgeable about the drug, investigators said, and it remains to be seen how this might color their future perception of the drug as an advance in the dementia treatment landscape, it reported. 

Appropriate-use guidance for aducanumab written by geriatricians was published online in July in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

In related news:

FDA to review evidence for ALS drug after push from consumers encouraged by Aduhelm OK  The maker of an experimental drug for the progressive nervous system disease ALS will soon ask the FDA to approve its closely watched treatment, according to BioPharma Dive. FDA received criticism from patient advocates after it originally asked to see more supportive data from Amylyx Pharmaceuticals prior to a review. “Pushback from these groups escalated following the FDA’s first-of-its-kind approval of Aduhelm, an Alzheimer’s disease drug that has sparked controversy for several reasons, including a mixed track record in clinical testing,” the news outlet reported.