September 26, 2021

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Maker of Dubious K Alzheimer’s Drug Offers Cognitive Test No One Can Pass

Maker of Dubious $56K Alzheimer’s Drug Offers Cognitive Test No One Can Pass

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Do you ever forget things, like a doctor’s appointment or a lunch date? Do you sometimes struggle to think of the right word for something common? Do you ever feel more anxious or irritable than you typically do? Do you ever feel overwhelmed when trying to make a decision? If you answered “no, never” to all of those questions, there’s a possibility that you may not actually be human. Nevertheless, you should still talk to a doctor about additional cognitive screenings to check if you have Alzheimer’s disease. At least, that’s the takeaway from a six-question quiz provided in part by Biogen, the maker of an unproven, $56,000 Alzheimer’s drug.

The six questions include the four above, plus questions about whether you ever lose your train of thought or ever get lost on your way to or around a familiar place. The questions not only bring up common issues that perfectly healthy people might face from time to time, but the answers any quiz-taker provides are also completely irrelevant. No matter how you answer — even if you say you never experience any of those issues — the quiz will always prompt you to talk with your doctor about cognitive screening. The results page even uses your zip code to provide a link to find an Alzheimer’s specialist near you. Biogen says the quiz website is part of a “disease awareness educational program.” But it appears to be part of an aggressive strategy to sell the company’s new Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm, which has an intensely controversial history, to say the least. What’s the controversial history you may ask? According to Ars, the drug “flunked out of two identical Phase III clinical trials in 2019.” A panel of expert advisors for the FDA overwhelmingly voted against approval, yet it still was approved by the FDA on June 7. It also has a list price of $56,000 for a year’s supply.

The report goes on to say that the company is basically making up the statistic that “about 1 in 12 Americans 50 years and older” has mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s. Experts say they know of no evidence to back up that statistic and it appears to be a significant overestimate.

Furthermore, two medical experts from Georgetown University said the company’s quiz website “appears designed to ratchet up anxiety in anyone juggling multiple responsibilities or who gets distracted during small talk.” They added: “Convincing perfectly normal people they should see a specialist, be tested for amyloid plaque, and, if present, assume they have early Alzheimer’s is a great strategy for increasing Aduhelm prescriptions… [It] could lead to millions of prescriptions — and billions of dollars in profit — for an ineffective and expensive drug.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.