BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The FDA’s announcement for the drug Aducanumab to help treat the early stages of Alzheimer’s is giving many Alabamians hope to cure the disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association Alabama Chapter, more than 96,000 people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s Disease, not counting people who may have onset Alzheimer’s at a younger age.
While there is a big debate among experts about the drug’s efficacy, many would consider Monday’s news a step in the right direction.
“Today is an important day in the history of Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. David Geldmacher with UAB’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center said.
The news is emotional for families who have loved ones fighting or lost their lives to the disease.
“It’s a landmark day. So, we’re excited. There’s something new,” Kimberly Stephens with the Alzheimer’s Association said.
Director of Programs Lisa Coleman says Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the country as well as throughout Alabama.
Stephens says her mother Karen Stephens was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014. She died in 2019 at 66 years old.
“I like to say that Alzheimer’s is not like an old person disease anymore,” Stephens said.
Her mother’s diagnosis inspired her to help other families going through this. The Alzheimer’s Association offers free services to families and their loved ones during this trying time.
“And we want to be there to serve every one of those families that needs us throughout the state,” Coleman said.
“And having support is going to help you survive this disease caring for that loved one,” Stephens said.
Dr. Geldmacher took questions Monday afternoon about the drug and what it means for the fight against the disease going forward. He says while the news is great, he says there is still a process ahead of getting the drug to the public.
“We will need to expand our diagnostic capacities and our therapeutic capacities to be able to deliver this drug to the appropriate population,” Dr. Geldmacher said.
But nonetheless, experts and families fighting the disease right now know what the FDA’s approval means going forward.
“It leaves the door open for us to find better treatments, better therapies,” Dr. Geldmacher said.
“We still have a long way to go,” Stephens said.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a 24-hour helpline at 800-272-3900. For more information on upcoming events and support groups, click here.