New drugs for Alzheimer’s can work wonders for patients – unless they are black

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There are two promising new drugs that can experimentally treat Alzheimer’s: Leqembi (from biotech companies Eisai and Biogen) and an experimental treatment developed by Eli Lilly ( LLY.N ), donanemab. They work by removing a dangerous protein called beta-amyloid from the brain that affects the 6.5 million Americans battling the disease.

However, Alzheimer’s experts believe that white people may benefit more from the drugs than black people. Older black Americans are twice as likely to have dementia than their white counterparts. However, they were screened out of clinical trials with these drugs to a greater extent, according to researchers in close cooperation with the companies.

The researchers stated that speculative black volunteers with early disease symptoms did not have enough amyloid in their brains to be part of the trials. In addition, Hispanics—who have dementia at one and a half times the rate of whites—were also left out at a higher rate because of low amyloid. However, the researchers explained that it was not as prevalent as it was in black people.

About 20% of older black people are believed to have Alzheimer’s or another dementia, which is twice as many as whites and higher than Hispanics, who are diagnosed at about 14%. Some medical experts are investigating the higher rates of dementia in blacks to see if it is due to factors other than Alzheimer’s.

They are also investigating whether the disease looks different in people of color, who are more likely to have chronic conditions. A spokesman for the US Food and Drug Administration stated that the agency is aware of the possible exclusion of some black people from the new treatments due to lack of amyloid levels.

The spokesperson also explained that the FDA encourages companies to increase the diversity of their enrollment in their ongoing trials and previously wanted companies to submit a plan to explain how they would do that. Cost is another barrier for those seeking the drug to treat Alzheimer’s, as Leqembi will cost $26,500 annually after it received full US regulatory approval this month.

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