UAB doctor calls promising Alzheimer’s Disease drug ‘a turning point’

Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 11:11 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Food and Drug Administration approved a drug Friday that seems to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. Health officials say the treatment targets the process of the disease instead of only the symptoms.

Experts say this is a turning point.

Dr. Marissa Natelson Love says around three million people with Alzheimer’s Disease in the U.S. may qualify for this drug. There are about 94,000 Alabamians with the disease and a third of those people could qualify.

The drug is called Lecanemab and Dr. Natelson Love, a UAB associate professor of neurology says the evidence shows the drug can remove the toxic plaque on the brain that causes Alzheimer’s Disease. She says this drug could dramatically slow the disease progression and help people maintain their independence for longer, as well as their cognitive skills.

She adds that UAB is actually recruiting for another study right now to see if the same drug can be used on those who have yet to develop symptoms.

The AHEAD Study which is a study looking at people with buildup of this toxic plaque which happens almost 20 years before someone develops symptoms,” said Dr. Natelson Love. “We’ll screen people to see if they are a candidate, meaning they have the toxic plaque, and give them this same drug in order to remove it and try to prevent them from ever developing symptoms.”

Dr. Matelson Love says the out-of-pocket cost for the Lecanemab drug is over $26,000 a year and we are waiting to see if Medicare will help cover that cost for patients.

Researchers were also quick to note that the medicine does come with downsides, including the need for twice-a-month infusions and possible side effects.

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