On June 7, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved aducanumab for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Here at Massachusetts General Hospital, we know that raises both excitement and questions for our patients. Since there are many questions regarding this new treatment, we would like to address the most frequently asked questions we have been receiving from our patients and their loved ones. We expect new information to become available in the coming months, and we will update the information here to include the latest developments.
What is aducanumab?
It is a newly approved medication for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Aducanumab is administered in the form of an intravenous (IV) infusion every 4 weeks. There is no pill form of this medication.
How does aducanumab work?
Aducanumab is an antibody that targets a protein called amyloid-beta. Amyloid-beta protein accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and it is thought to contribute to the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. Aducanumab helps patients’ immune systems to remove the amyloid-beta deposits from the brain.
Will aducanumab be available to patients at Mass General?
After careful deliberation and review, Mass General Brigham has decided that it will not provide aducanumab (Aduhelm™) for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease at this time. Like all other drugs used within Mass General Brigham, aducanumab was subject to evaluation by the Mass General Brigham Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, a multidisciplinary panel of experts from across the academic health system, that serves as decision-making body to Mass General Brigham on formulary management. The evaluation included a thorough review of clinical, economic, and operational considerations. This decision was based on the current data regarding aducanumab’s safety and efficacy. We understand that this may be difficult news for some of our patients. However, we fully support continued evaluation of this medication and should new data become available we will re-evaluate this decision.
Who is eligible to receive aducanumab?
As with any medication, eligibility depends on a number of individual patient factors. Aducanumab has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. There is no evidence that it would be effective in the treatment of other types of dementia. For personalized treatment options, you should discuss further with your doctor.
What are potential side effects of aducanumab?
As with any medication, aducanumab may have side effects. Since aducanumab works by helping the immune system remove amyloid deposits from the brain, some patients may experience an exaggerated immune response in the brain. If this occurs, it may cause blood vessel leakiness leading to localized brain swelling, bleeding in the brain, or both. These side effects can be seen using MRI imaging of the brain and are called amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA). As a result, patients receiving aducanumab will require regular monitoring with MRI scans. Another potential side effect is an allergic response during the infusion of aducanumab.
How will the most up to date information be communicated to patients and their families?
We take patient care and the battle against Alzheimer’s very seriously here at Mass General. We understand that there have been no developments in new medications in over 18 years and that some patients are eager to receive treatment as soon as possible. We will provide updates regarding aducanumab and its availability via this website.
If I have further questions, should I speak with my doctor?
You are always welcome to speak with your doctor to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. You may connect with your doctor via Patient Gateway or calling our clinic at 617-726-1728.
If I am enrolled in a clinical trial, should I continue?
We would encourage you to continue participation in ongoing clinical trials at this time. If you have any questions or concerns about how starting aducanumab may impact your continued participation in the clinical trial, please discuss them with your doctor.
I am not currently a patient in the Memory Disorders Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. How can I be evaluated for aducanumab therapy at your clinic?
The phone number to initiate becoming a patient through our Neurology New Patient Access Center at Massachusetts General Hospital is 855-644-6386, option 2. Your current doctor will be asked to send a referral. The coordinators in our center will help get you schedule an appointment with the most appropriate doctor for your care and assist you through the process of becoming a new patient. Once your referral is processed, our coordinators can be reached at 617-726-1728 to schedule.
We understand you may have additional questions about the potential of this drug. We will continue to keep you updated as soon as information becomes available, and we thank you for your patience.
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