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VA Not Covering Alzheimer's Disease Drug

The US Department of Veterans Affairs won't cover the new Alzheimer's disease treatment from Biogen, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Food and Drug Administration controversially approved aducanumab, Biogen's Aduhelm, in June despite questions regarding the treatment's effectiveness. An FDA panel last November had determined that there was not enough data showing that the treatment led to a slowing of cognitive decline among Alzheimer's disease patients. Following its approval, several health insurers since announced they would not cover the treatment and medical centers including the Cleveland Clinic and the Mount Sinai Health System in New York have said they would not administer it.

The VA, according to the Journal, had decided not to add aducanumab to its formulary though doctors can seek approval on a case-by-case basis. A spokesperson tells the paper the decision stems from the potential side effects associated with the drug and the lack of evidence that its use leads to better cognitive function. The Journal adds that a recent study estimated that there are 150,000 veterans with Alzheimer's disease and that the drug could cost the agency more than $4 billion a year.

A Biogen spokesperson tells the Journal that the VA policy isn't absolute and has a path toward coverage.