New anti-amyloid drugs are providing hope for people with Alzheimer’s disease – Now what?

Oct. 9, 2023
Safe, effective implementation requires unprecedented coordination of care.

Newly approved anti-amyloid therapies that slow Alzheimer’s disease progression offer new hope for people with the disorder. The challenge for health systems is to implement them safely and effectively by creating an extensive new care infrastructure, from screening candidates to intravenous (IV) infusion of the medication, according to a presentation at the 148th Annual Meeting of the American Neurological Association (ANA). 

The first challenge is determining how to ease the inevitable bottle neck when multitudes of patients try to make appointments with a limited number of neurologists (and even fewer who specialize in Alzheimer’s disease). It could take many months for patients to get an appointment, only to potentially learn they may no longer be appropriate candidates for therapy because their condition has advanced beyond the early stages. Ideally, every health system that plans to provide anti-amyloid therapies should establish a carefully developed protocol to handle the coming influx of patients, from evaluating their eligibility to safely administering the anti-amyloid infusions. Liana G. Apostolova, MD, MS, FAAN, associate dean of Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Indiana University distinguished professor in Alzheimer’s disease, said one approach is to create and train a multidisciplinary team of health professionals, which could include: 

  • Neurologist who oversees the team 
  • Brain health navigator (a newly created role at most institutions), who takes the initial call from the patient and works with the primary care physician to ensure the right tests are conducted 
  • Primary care physicians who get reimbursed to prequalify patients by: 
  • Compiling the patient’s health history, including: 
  • Dementia 
  • Medications  
  • Allergies 
  • Flagging those on blood thinners or with terminal cancer or immunologic conditions 
  • Ordering or conducting: 
  • MRI brain scan 
  • Neurological exam and cognitive testing of the six domains (from executive function to language), which can be performed by a psychology service or psychometrist 
  • 12 blood tests for the dementia workup to rule out other conditions  
  • Depression assessment 
  • Nurse who oversees the workup of prequalified patients, including: 
  • Amyloid PET  
  • Genetic testing for APOE4, the strongest known Alzheimer’s disease risk gene 
  • Radiologist to interpret brain imaging tests 
  • Nurse to manage the infusion of the anti-amyloid, which must be done in the hospital or an infusion center 
  • Emergency room, intensive care and stroke team specialists to treat patients experiencing side effects of the therapy 

Another challenge is managing the infusion, including ensuring there are an adequate number of available infusion chairs. This may be a significant limitation for many hospitals because the chairs are also used for infusions to treat other conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatological disorders. All patients need to be monitored for an allergic reaction throughout the treatment - for three hours after the first infusion, two hours after the second, one hour after the third and 30 minutes after subsequent infusions. The brain health navigator or nurse also needs to call the patient the next day to be sure they haven’t had a delayed reaction.  

American Neurological Association release on Newswise