There May Be A New Treatment For Alzheimer's Disease

Certain things are just accepted aspects of aging. Memory lapses, lower energy levels, and an emotional state that is generally calmer than it used to be. But when those symptoms become severe and mingle with other serious impairments, there might be a larger issue at play. And when that issue is Alzheimer's, the outlook is rarely positive.

Time reports that Alzheimer's was first discovered and named in 1906 by Alois Alzheimer, a German psychologist and neuropathologist. At first, Alzheimer simply categorized it as another form of dementia. But as he learned more, the condition became more specific and it was given his name, which is still in use today.

Alzheimer's is, according to Johns Hopkins, the common form of dementia. It affects 5.2 million people over the age of 65 and another 1 million people 64 and under, who suffer from early-onset Alzheimer's. Some symptoms, like memory loss and confusion, are well-known. But there are others that fewer people know about. They include emotional apathy, issues with communication and following directions, losing spatial awareness, personality changes, and a sense of restlessness.

The FDA says that there is currently no cure. All of the treatments and approaches tried to date only deal with symptoms, or aim to improve the patient's quality of life. A new drug, however, might change all of that. It is called Aduhelm (generic name aducanumab), and it is currently the only drug that might treat the root cause of Alzheimer's.

The first hope for Alzheimer's

According to the FDA's press release on Aduhelm's approval, the drug was developed by Biogen in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The drug reduces the amount of plaque build up in the brain, something that scientists have long suspected causes the tell-tale symptoms of the disease. Aduhelm specifically targets amyloid beta plaque and was shown to cause a marked reduction after being tested in three studies that involved almost 3,500 people.

The last drug for Alzheimer's was approved almost 20 years ago in 2003. Even then, it was not meant to target the disease, but instead treat the symptoms. In fact it was this gap in Alzheimer's coverage that led to Aduhelm receiving an "accelerated approval." The FDA states that they reserve these approvals for drugs that treat serious conditions for which there is no other treatment. In the case of fast track treatments, there is no clinical proof that the drug works, but there is plenty of proof in nonclinical studies and lab work.

It is currently intended for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's. And it is important to note that the lack of clinical trials may mean there are odd side effects or that certain medications and secondary conditions affect the drug's efficacy. But for people with Alzheimer's and their families, this drug may be the first true hope since the discovery of the disease more than a century ago.