Public health insurance subsidises Japan’s new Alzheimer's drug

Individuals will pay about $1,000 per year

Public health insurance subsidises Japan’s new Alzheimer's drug

Life & Health

By Kenneth Araullo

Japan’s health ministry has announced that a new Alzheimer's drug, developed by Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai and US-based biotechnology firm Biogen, will be available for about ¥2.98 million ($20,500) per single course treatment per year. The cost, said the health ministry, will be substantially subsidised by public health insurance.

According to a report from The Japan Times, the drug, named lecanemab and branded as Leqembi, is set to launch in Japan in a few days, on December 20.

Lecanemab received approval in Japan in September, marking it as the first medication in the country, said the report and a Biogen news release, proven to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms. It works by targeting and removing a protein believed to be a primary cause of the neurodegenerative disease.

Patients receiving Leqembi will bear a portion of the treatment cost, ranging between 10% and 30%, dependent on their age and income level. Additionally, the drug is expected to fall under Japan's existing system that caps annual patient payments, providing further financial relief.

What does it cost in the United States?

The Japan Times report said a patient aged 70 or older with an annual income between ¥1.56 million ($10,925) and ¥3.7 million ($25,911) would have a maximum annual payment of ¥144,000 ($1008) for the drug.

In comparison, the report said the annual cost for the same drug in the United States is $26,500 per patient.

Leqembi functions by using an antibody to target amyloid beta, a plaque-like protein that accumulates in the brain and damages nerve cells, contributing to Alzheimer's disease. The drug, said the report, is designed to treat individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and those with mild cognitive impairment.

Some adverse effects reported

Annually, up to 32,000 patients in Japan could be eligible for the treatment, potentially creating a market worth around ¥98.6 billion, said the report.

Clinical trials conducted by Eisai demonstrated that Leqembi reduced the progression of symptoms such as memory loss and impaired judgment by 27% compared to a placebo.

However, the company also reported that some patients experienced adverse effects like brain swelling and bleeding during the treatment.

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