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Health & Medicine

CNY Alzheimer's Researchers, Patient Advocates Say New Drug Offers Hope, Enters New Frontier

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Local Alzheimer’s researchers and advocates for people with the disease are hailing the approval of a new drug as ‘hopeful’ and ‘a victory.’  Cathy James is CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, Central New York Chapter.  

"This is a new day for millions of Americans who are living with Alzheimer's or caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease." 

She explains the new drug aducanumab is whole new frontier for treating the disease.

"It works much differently than medications we have currently, which help with the symptoms but don't change or modify the disease.”

She adds this is the first medication of its kind.  It helps reduce proteins called amyloids that can attach themselves to brain cells.  That in turn could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and the increase in symptoms of memory loss, dementia and other life-sapping effects.  Lisa Sonneborn with Clarty Clinical Research, which also investigates Alzheimer’s treatments, explains this is an exciting development for researchers even if limited.

"This is just one step towards finding better treatments for Alzehimer's.  This isn't a cure and it's not a one size fits all medication.  But it is opening the door for a lot of opportunity, growth and innovation to follow.  So, this is very exciting.”     

Both Sonneborn and James say the new drug will spur further research - and even competition – for more Alzheimer’s treatments.  For patients and families with someone who has the disease, James notes it can be life changing.

"This could mean more time for individuals to actively participate in daily, have sustained independence, and hold on to memories longer.  This could mean for many individuals and family members that they can experience relationships they hold dear, and be able to participate  in their daily activities and daily life longer."

The manufacturer will need time to ramp-up production of the drug.  And James says their next challenge will be to make sure Medicare or other insurance covers the expensive treatment for those eligible.  

Information about the new drug and other aspects of Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment can be found here.