The Food and Drug Administration authorized the first Alzheimer’s medicine to delay cognitive loss, a decision praised by patients and supporters but questioned by critics who claimed insufficient proof that the drug works.
The treatment, aducanumab (Aduhelm), is the first to be approved for Alzheimer’s disease that aims to change the course of the illness by reducing the loss of brain function rather than merely alleviating symptoms. (It is currently not approved by Medicare.)
It is the first novel Alzheimer’s medicine in more than two decades, and it is the first to focus on the disease process rather than symptoms. While this is encouraging news, it is essential to note that, like other drugs, it may not be suited for everyone. We encourage families of persons with early-stage Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to speak with their doctors to determine whether it is suitable for them.
The FDA has conditionally authorized this medicine for additional research due to considerable dispute regarding its potential effectiveness and certain recognized adverse effects. Families and doctors should be informed that this treatment is only for individuals in the early stages of the disease, as determined by a PET scan, making it unavailable to many individuals at this time. Every patient’s and family’s circumstances are unique, making this a difficult decision.
Given the age of most Alzheimer’s patients, Medicare is expected to cover a large portion of the drug’s cost, although it has not stated its coverage plans. Private payers will be under a lot of pressure to pay for the therapy, but they may refuse if the price is too high. It is unclear how much cost-sharing patients with government or commercial insurance will have to pay.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Its Devastation
With that stated, we are acutely aware of the slow and cumulative destruction caused by Alzheimer’s or one of the many causes of dementia symptoms, as people lose their memory and cognitive function over time. Those who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are frequently unable to converse or connect with others. After diagnosis, the average lifespan of someone with Alzheimer’s disease is four to eight years; however, some people can survive for up to 20 years.
Alzheimer’s disease affects well over 6 million people in America, and the number is likely to increase as the population ages. In the U.S, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the top causes of death.
Although the Aduhelm data are convoluted in terms of clinical benefits, the FDA has found strong evidence that Aduhelm decreases amyloid-beta plaques in the brain and that this decrease is fairly likely to provide significant benefits to patients. As a consequence of the FDA’s approval of Aduhelm, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may now have a new therapy option to assist them in fighting the condition.
As Aduhelm enters the market and eventually reaches the patient’s bedside, the FDA will continue to watch it.
Hollenbeck Palms welcomes this news and looks forward to furthering investment in additional treatments to improve life for people living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and their families.
As a Continuing Retirement Community (CCRC), we offer Residential & Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing and a state-of-the-art Memory Enhancement Center, which is opening in 2021.
We are taking applications for our Memory Enhancement Center now. Call 323-307-4505, or email Zhana Dubin at Zdubin@holpalms.com.