Hastings Center Report
Alzheimer’s and Aducanumab: Unjust Profits and False Hopes
Abstract: Accelerated approval of aducanumab for mild Alzheimer’s by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on June 7, 2021, has generated substantial medical, scientific, and ethical controversy. That approval was contrary to the nearly unanimous judgment of the FDA’s Advisory Committee that little reliable evidence existed of significant benefit, even though the drug did reduce β-amyloid. Three major ethical problems were created by this approval: (1) Medicare resources would be unjustly squandered, given the drug’s $56,000 annual price and the 3.1 million older potential American patients needing the drug; (2) physicians will feel ethically compelled to provide the drug to desperate, insistent patients, given FDA approval and in spite of side effects of brain bleeds and brain swelling; (3) and false hopes are generated for patients. A needed corrective by the federal government would reduce reimbursement to the bare cost of producing the drug (plus only a modest profit) until a phase IV trial has been successfully completed.