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Biogen’s Japanese counterpart wants to take a global approach to Alzheimer’s

Recent US approval for Biogen’s Alzheimer’s friend highlights the urgent need for a framework to test and treat the disease which is a “secret epidemic”, according to the head of its Japanese development partner Eisai.

Aducanumab, which will be sold under the Aduhelm brand, is the first new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease for nearly 20 years but attracted the argument in the US for worth $ 56,000 a year and questions about his power.

In response, Eisai chief executive Haruo Naito said the Japanese team and Biogen are working on ways to make the drug more accessible. But he added that there was a need for countries around the world to adopt laws to address Alzheimer’s – as the US National Cancer Act contributed to the disease – to reduce the population and the annual cost of treating mental illness, which he said be more than $ 1tn.

“We don’t think Aduhelm alone will be a major contributor to Alzheimer’s disease, but achieving this is important to see ways in which we can achieve the necessary treatment,” he said.

According to the World Health Organization, there are about 10m cases of dementia each year, two thirds of all Alzheimer’s disease. Naito called the disease a “secret epidemic” that is spreading across developed countries, such as Japan and the US, to developing countries.

“Not only one or two companies are developing the drug but it is important that there is a solution to the problem and there are frustrations that efforts have not been made in this regard,” he added.

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved aducanumab, the share in Eisai has risen by 45%, with experts expecting the drug to play a significant role in the economic gains ending in March 2024.

In addition to the cost of the medication, Credit Suisse researcher Fumiyoshi Sakai said barriers that could prevent people with the drug include complications of Alzheimer’s disease and special tests needed to determine the patient’s suitability. Eligible patients should also be given intravenous injections once every four weeks.

However, Sakai said FDA approval has opened up future opportunities for Eisai’s BAN2401, another Alzheimer’s drug that is being developed in combination with Biogen. Products from Eli Lilly and Roche’s pharma competition groups are also likely to enter the market sooner than expected.

“Perhaps aducanumab is still part of the experimental drug, but with more available in the next few years, it will open the way for more drugs to come out,” Sakai said.

Eisai has been developing antidepressants since the early 1980’s and is well known Donepezil, a well-known drug for Alzheimer’s disease, first developed as Aricept.

“If you look at us from any angle, we will suffer from dementia,” said Naito, a 73-year-old grandson of the founder of Eisai. “We have a knowledge that has been failing on a number of shortcomings and we have delivered things that are similar to Big Pharma, which is why I feel we are competitors.”

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