Mass General Brigham, the state’s largest health-care provider, announced Tuesday that it will not treat patients with Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s medicine, a further blow for the Cambridge firm and its costly treatment. The network, which includes the flagships Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is the second major US health care institution to reject monthly infusions of the medicine, known as Aduhelm, due to safety and effectiveness concerns.
After considering the risks and benefits of the drug, the Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Health System in New York, and Providence in Renton, Wash., all made similar decisions in July. However, due of its proximity to Biogen, Mass General Brigham decision is particularly significant. According to Bridget Perry, a Mass General Brigham spokesman, the decision was made on Sept. 20 by the hospital system’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, a team of drug experts who assessed the $56,000-a-year treatment.
Aduhelm is a monoclonal antibody derived from the immune cells of elderly adults who are not experiencing or have seen unusually modest cognitive loss. It lowers amyloid, a sticky protein that gathers into plaque in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains. Biogen and some doctors claim that amyloid buildup is to blame for the cognitive impairment that characterises the fatal neurological disease, but this is unproven and hotly debated.