Sunday, June 23, 2024

FDA Approves Expensive Alzheimer’s Drug And Continues To Ignore Cannabis

The high cost of Biogen’s newly approved and controversial treatment will be compounded by a misguided Medicare policy that incentivizes doctors to prescribe the priciest medicines. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article solely belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Fresh Toast.

It is easy to understand why everyone is desperate for anything that will help with Alzheimer’s Disease. Patients and their families dread its relentless onslaught. Consequently, there was tremendous pressure for the FDA to approve Aduhelm (aducanumab), by Biogen and Eisai. 

However, its approval was met with widespread criticism because it is both expensive, with an expected annual price tag of $56,000, but of limited effectiveness.   

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Photo by designer491/Getty Images

Aducanumab is taken as an infusion administered in a doctor’s office for one hour every four weeks. That might be difficult for a patients suffering from agitation who might not understand why they are there. 

SEE: Doctors Shouldn’t Get Rich From an Unproven Alzheimer’s Drug

The high cost of Biogen’s newly approved and controversial treatment will be compounded by a misguided Medicare policy that incentivizes doctors to prescribe the priciest medicines. 

SEE: If The FDA Approves Biogen’s Alzheimer’s Treatment, I Won’t Prescribe It AND: 3 Experts Have Resigned From An FDA Committee Over Alzheimer’s Drug Approval

Given the level of disagreement among experts, we can only wonder about the process. What is the appropriate role for the FDA? 

SEE: Abolish the FDA. The role of the state is to protect rights and guard against fraud, not to prevent people from making risky choices

Of course the FDA, like every government agency, has been subverted to support the Drug War.

SEE: The FDA and Me: Medical Cannabis and Regulatory Capture AND: Seniors Have Even More Reason To Demand End To Cannabis Prohibition 

I have been critical of The American Alzheimer’s Association before (SEE: Does The Alzheimer’s Association Hope We Will Just Forget About CBD?), however, the situation is only marginally better in the U.K. The British Alzheimer’s association does say, “Research does suggest that high concentrations of CBD oil could be useful for managing some of the symptoms of dementia such as agitation and anxiety.”  

But they also acknowledged that the “Alzheimer’s Society has never funded research into cannabis and dementia risk, or into cannabis as a potential treatment for dementia symptoms. This is because we have not received any high-quality applications from researchers intending to investigate these issues.”  

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Photo by Nicole De Khors via Burst

The obvious question is “why?” Why has the medical establishment failed to support research on cannabinoid medicine when clearly nothing else has worked?  

SEE: The Individual Courage And Collective Cowardice Of The Medical Profession

Also, cannabinoid medicines are of low toxicity. However, according to Dementia Care Central, “Patients taking aducanumab have experienced swelling and bleeding in the brain, a side effect called ‘amyloid-related imaging abnormalities’ (ARIA). Headache, balance problems leading to falls, stomach issues including diarrhea, and disorientation are also possible side effects.  

“The swelling or bleeding that comes from ARIA can be monitored via brain scans for people taking aducanumab. The drugmaker recommends MRI scans that detect ARIA before the 7th and 12th infusions, as the problems typically develop in the first 12 to 16 weeks of treatment and are asymptomatic (meaning a person can’t feel them happening). During trials, ARIA was detected in 41% of people taking aducanumab, compared to 10% of those in the control group who did not take the drug.”

Maybe medical cannabis could at least help with the side effects of the FDA-approved pharmaceutical. Ending marijuana prohibition might also help with the other problems associated with aging, like extreme cynicism from having been lied to all our lives. 

Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of Study About Cannabidiol’s Impact On The Liver Of Adults.


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