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Come Monday, we should learn whether the Food and Drug Administration will approve the first new drug since 2003 to help slow the relentless cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

While there is much uncertainty swirling over whether the drug will be approved, how effective it is, how much it should cost, and how it could be administered given the shortage of memory specialists and brain imaging machines required to identify eligible patients, one thing is abundantly clear: Approval of Biogen’s aducanumab, or other similar medications rising through the drug development pipeline, is likely to only increase massive racial inequities in the treatment of the more than 6 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.

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  • I think the medical community and society as a whole needs to stop defining people by race. Race is understood today as a social construct and not based on any scientific reality. Racism is the belief that people can be categorized into a number of “boxes” and that each of those five (the number shifts) “races” can be assigned attributes and can be ranked. In that system, white people (persons of European ancestry) come out on top in many persons minds. The concept of race was designed several hundred years ago for nefarious purposes, mainly to justify the subjugation of people for exploitation. Lacking a scientific basis, it has no place in medicine or anywhere else. There are alternatives, like ethnicity, or the continental origins of ancestors, and other substitutes people can develop. If you want to see how ludicrous trying to determine what race one is, I invite you to do an internet search on the 1997 OMB standards and the 2020 census and the controversies surrounding them.

  • Race, income? Seriously? Vast majority of Alzheimer’s Disease patients are covered by Medicare right? If/when aducanumab is approved, Medicare must cover it, right? How many practicing memory specialists would dare to admit or imply they would not accept minority patients? So where the heck would these totally speculative and hypothetical inequities come from?
    In fact if there are indeed so many undeserved AZ minority patients out there, I would like to think Biogen would be extremely eager to launch special patient assistance programs and aducanumab discount cards to enhance and ramp up their aducanumab revenue to please the stockholders. All other consuderations are of little importance and of lower priority.

    • Medicare does not cover medications.

      The Medicare Advantage Programs do cover medications (a benefit that causes people to sign up for an Advantage plan) but the list of covered medications is limited to reduce costs, so this likely very expensive medication will probably not be on the list.

      Most other insurances that cover medications like ChampVA only pay 2/3 of the cost and the rest comes out of your pocket.

  • How evil do you have to be to lament a cure for Alzheimer’s? This is getting beyond parody.

    • While the article did make the point about lack of diversity in the clinical trials, I agree with your point — approval of the drug is NOT what would “deepen racial inequities,” and nothing in the article proved that. Shame on STAT for pushing this hysteria. An effective AD drug would be amazing for everyone. As for the missed diagnosis, that’s very common for patients across the board.

  • What a silly article. 1)It’s thesis is that a new Alzheimer’s treatment would increase racial disparities, not because of anything unique to this drug, but because of the well documented racial disparities that currently exist in the receipt of health care services. This means, according to the author, that every new treatment will increase racial disparities. 2) It claims that Black people are twice as like to “have” Alzheimer’s than White people. But the next sentence says that Black people are less likely to be diagnosed. If this is true, how can we know what the rate of Alzheimer’s actually is in Black populations? 3) The article claims that there is “much uncertainty” about “how effective” aducanumab” is. The real question is not “how effective” it is but whether it has any effect at all. The author should have clicked on the link she provides because she would seen the NYT article by a neurologist who said he would not prescribe the drug even if approved by the FDA because it is quite clear it is ineffective. The only people who advocate for approval are those with a financial stake in its sales and desperate family members who understandably clutch at any straw. 4) The claim that there are racial disparities in the treatment of Alzheimer’s cannot be true because there is no treatment. White people get more tests, like PET scans and lumbar punctures, than Black people, but these tests are not treatments. Rather they confirm the diagnosis of a disease with no treatment. People who avoid these unnecessary interventions are fortunate.

  • I am white and i used to think I was a good guy – or at least, not a particularly bad guy.

    But now I found out I am a terrible guy, because, when I saw this headline about an Alzheimer’s drug, I was happy, not distressed. Even worse, I feel like we should all be happy about it, if the drug truly helps. Because someone will be getting treatment. I sincerely do want everyone to get all the medical help current knowledge makes possible, but I am very happy if SOME of us get it.

    The author of this article went to Brown and then UC Berkeley. I sincerely believe there should be a real discussion of how much damage these schools are doing to our society, when the mentality encouraged in them is, an Alzheimer’s drug is bad news. An Alzheimer’s drug is good news to normal people.

    • OK, you are definitely a “bad guy” of the title “A landmark Alzheimer’s drug approval would likely deepen racial inequities in dementia care” made you happy.

      “At least someone will be treated” is a lousy attitude, especially as you know as a white guy you are even more likely to get treated than a white women. We tend to get prescribed antidepressants instead of physicians bothering to do the tests needed to diagnose Alzheimer’s until we are so ill with the disease an intervention is too late.

      Brown and Berkley are doing damage to people?

      You need to take a look and re-read the article because it did not say “when the mentality encouraged in them is, an Alzheimer’s drug is bad news.”

      That was never said, the point was any drug that worked would never help those most in need unless they were white and could afford the insurance and co-pay charges to cover the treatment.

      “An Alzheimer’s drug is good news to normal people.” Right, and normal people are white.

    • I hope you are kidding, but with the Brown and Berkeley crowd you can never tell – I am sure someone is taking you seriously, and that is the problem.

  • Many experts doubt aducanumab will even have much effect on Alzheimer’s disease but cost a small fortune. The drug may end up just being an extra pharma-tax on elderly white people. Are minority populations without the drug missing out on anything?

  • How did this article even get published? Shame on STAT for pushing this garbage. The litmus test for a drug getting passed should always be is it safe and does it work.

    The news is full of race baiting headlines and this is just another one.

    • This is not “woke crap”, this is reality for Black and brown people. Too bad your right wing racist remarks are permitted here. Shame on you both. Did you read the entire article. Is this all that you came away with? Reading comprehension and compassion is not your strong suit.

    • I am so tired of all this white male “race baiting” and “woke” excuse cr*p.

      Your lives are so nice and white bread, and you refuse to see the racial and ethnic divide you guys maintain to justify your privileged livelihoods. Doing so might mean you take responsibility for this stuff and might need to make changes. Changes that might mean you get less.

      We white women are tired of your attitude because we are also tired of being 51% of the population, yet are being treated as if we were a minority and in need of being taken care of by a male. Yeah, right, we need help because we are paid 25% less when doing the same work and when we do manage to get an upper management job we are not given the same benefits and perks you guys get.

      Stuff your “Me First!” attitude where the sun does not shine, your time is coming, it is not just the other races and minorities that ready to displace you.

  • medicine in the US is structured as a FEE for service ; also it is one of the only services US citizens go in for with zero idea about both pricing ; copays or out of net work billings ; finally the largest barrier to access is cost where the system is actual 3 to 4 x higher than any European country

  • Years ago I read a book about a study of Alzheimer’s that U. of Kentucky did with nuns. There was one very elderly nun who was of sound mind and alert and bright.
    Yet her autopsy revealed plaques and tangles in her brain. The more highly educated nuns who were teachers etc. had a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s than the nuns who were the domestic workers in the convent.

    • And yet it is a common disease in the well-educated.

      The nun was an outlier that keeps getting pointed to as a person who had severe disease yet seem perfectly normal.

      Considering nuns like her who are cloistered have a totally regimented routine they have done since they were teenagers, and that requires no active participation in Society, any brain deterioration would not be that noticeable.

      She had been doing the same things everyday for decades on end, forgetting yesterday would not matter since she still had the memory of the earlier decades of the daily routine to fall back on.

      And then again as a nun maybe God kept her from suffering the ill effects of the brain deterioration.

  • Sorry. This is not a race thing (as you try to portray it), it’s an income thing. Poor white people will be equally disadvantaged. You want equality-the only way to achieve is through universal health care like in the rest of the civilized world.

    • It is a race thing, since non-whites are systematically paid less, charged more interest for loans, and generally are treated as lesser in our Society.

      I love how the excuse of white guys is that “it is not race but socioeconomic”.

      Do you notice the “socio” part of “socioeconomic”?

      That is the huge hint to the the social effect of being discriminated against.

    • Universal, equal access to healthcare is the issue here. It’s about having the right insurance coverage to afford the care, especially, as new drugs are costly. Everyone should have the same equal right to access and care, regardless, of their financial status. We’re all humans! We’re all the same inside, just look different,outside.

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