New FDA-Approved Treatment for Alzheimer's Disease - What Mayo Clinic Experts Say
You've probably noticed a news story or two this week touting the big news that, for the first time in nearly 2 decades, the FDA has approved a new pharmacologic treatment for Alzheimer's Disease, called aducanumab. While this sounds like huge cause for celebration, it is important to know that this does not appear to be the "miracle drug" we have been hoping for. In a nutshell, aducanumab seems to provide a small benefit to a small group of people.
Unlike existing medicines, this treatment is targeted at people with MCI, rather than dementia. (You can see our prior discussion of the difference between MCI and dementia here.) Identifying whether you might be in the subset of people who could see a small benefit from this drug is a time intensive process. In addition, because of the potential for serious side effects (including swelling in the brain), this IV treatment also requires frequent monitoring of the brain through MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans in between treatments.
Clearly, there are a lot of factors for you and your doctor to discuss and consider before a determination can be made as to whether or not to pursue this treatment. While you may wish to set up an appointment to start this discussion, you should know that aducanumab is not yet available to pharmacies/infusion centers. This process may take weeks to months. Your local doctor and healthcare facility will be able to provide updates as they learn more and set up their own processes.
In the meantime, read more about the approval of aducanumab and thoughts from Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease experts here.
And remember, you do have the power to stay as independent as possible, for as long as possible, through a focus on healthy brain lifestyle habits such as physical exercise, cognitive exercise, social engagement, nutrition, and compensating for memory loss by using your calendar/planner system. Keep up your work in these areas, and keep the faith that there WILL be more meaningful and widely beneficial treatments some day. I for one, remain hopeful that I will see such a treatment during my career.