Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company with the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Alzheimer’s imaging agent is doubling down on its bet that Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment could be a future hot market. It is acquiring two imaging agents developed by Siemens that make brain deposits of tau, an Alzheimer's protein linked with cell death, visible with advanced PET imaging, reports Reuters.
Amyvid, Eli Lilly’s FDA-approved imaging agent, targets amyloid plaques in the brain, but tau also is believed to be key in the Alzheimer’s disease process.
"The whole field has been amyloid-centric, amyloid-driven, but we need more than that. That's why we're investing in tau," said Dan Skovronsky, Lilly's vice president of tailored therapeutics and CEO of its Avid Radiopharmaceuticals molecular imaging subsidiary in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
GE Healthcare also is working on a diagnostic imaging test that can identify tau tangles in the brain.
Among outpatient imaging providers, testing for Alzheimer’s is still fairly rare as payors do not yet cover the Amyvid test. Most current testing is related to trials of drugs that may halt or slow Alzheimer’s disease brain damage.
RadNet’s Shine a Light on Dementia program is the largest multi-state multi-site outpatient imaging program offering Alzheimer’s diagnosis with PET imaging, but as of last month, it had only completed 75 brain amyloid imaging scans that were non-research cases. The true promise of the test hinges on reimbursement, Judith Rose, MD, director of PET/CT and nuclear medicine for RadNet told ImagingBiz.
“We have a lot of interest, but few patients are willing to pay for it,” she said.