Prioritizing patients

2 minute read

By the end of 2024, Japanese pharmaceutical firm Eisai could be among the few companies with a drug to treat the root causes of Alz­heimer’s disease, which affects a growing population of 55 million. Its drug, lecanemab (Leqembi), is the latest breakthrough in the company’s decades-long work on the neurodegenerative disease. That dedication stems from a philosophy of prioritizing patients’ needs. Eisai officers and employees are strongly encouraged to spend 1% of their business hours interacting with patients and their families, including through programs that help caregivers or delivering food to housebound patients. “We have a responsibility to listen and learn from patients,” says Eisai Inc. CEO of U.S. operations Tatsuyuki Yasuno, who has spent time with patients receiving lecanemab.

While the cost of lecanemab, which patients receive once every two weeks, remains high, more insurers, including Medicare, are agreeing to cover the drug. Yasuno says the number of patients getting infusions increased more than 2.5 times last year in the U.S. after it was approved for patients in the early stages of the disease in January 2023. The company is now studying whether the drug can slow progression of Alzheimer’s in people who don’t yet show signs of memory loss or cognitive decline, but do have genetic or biological factors that put them at higher risk for developing the disease.

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