FDA approval of new drug for Alzheimer’s provides a “significant ray of hope”

The approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this month of the drug aducanumab (Biogen/Eisai) to help treat Alzheimer’s disease created plenty of excitement and optimism around the medical community. Words like “significant” and “hope” and “progress” were being used to describe the latest weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

This is the first drug that slows Alzheimer’s disease and is the beginning of a completely new future for Alzheimer’s treatments. This new type of Alzheimer’s treatment addresses the disease in a way that has never been done before, compared to currently approved drugs.

Reaction all over the United States, including here in Michigan, was extremely positive.

“While not a cure, this is the first FDA-approved drug that treats the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jennifer Lepard, Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter president and CEO. “That’s a significant ray of hope for people living with Alzheimer’s and their families. We are optimistic that this approval will help ensure earlier diagnosis, give individuals more time, and usher in greater innovation in research and treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia in the future.”

Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative and fatal brain disease that is the most common cause of dementia.

Harry Johns, Alzheimer’s Association president and CEO, said the Alzheimer’s Association welcomes and celebrates this historic FDA approval of aducanumab for Alzheimer’s disease.

“It is a new day,” Johns said. “This approval allows people living with Alzheimer’s more time to live better. For families, it means being able to hold on to their loved ones longer. It is about reinvigorating scientists and companies in the fight against this scourge of a disease. It is about hope.”

Joanne Pike, Dr.P.H., chief strategy officer for Alzheimer’s Association, says that while this therapy will be of great interest to many, it’s not the only important element of Alzheimer’s treatment and care.

“The Alzheimer’s Association has made it a priority to partner with health care systems, physicians, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to ensure early and accurate diagnosis, and access to treatment, care management and care planning,” she says. “The Alzheimer’s Association will do everything in its power to ensure access to the drug and FDA-required diagnostic testing for all who will benefit. Eliminating barriers to access is our highest priority.”

Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., chief science officer for Alzheimer’s Association, hopes this is just the beginning toward even more progress.

“This FDA drug approval ushers in a new era in Alzheimer’s treatment and research,” she says. “History has shown us that approvals of the first drug in a new category invigorates the field, increases investments in new treatments and encourages greater innovation. We are hopeful and this is the beginning — both for this drug and for better treatments for Alzheimer’s.

“We are proud of what the Alzheimer’s Association has done to accelerate the drug development process, so individuals will have access to more effective treatments faster. This new drug approval, and sustained progress in the research field, is due to years of investment, unrelenting dedication, and our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.”

For Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, an annual report by the Alzheimer’s Association, visit alz.org/facts.