FDA approves first Alzheimer's treatment in 20 years

For the first time in twenty years, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Alzheimer's Disease.

The treatment is a monthly infusion called Aducanumab and it is credited with slowing or even stopping the progression of the disease. However, not all doctors are convinced it works.

FOX 32 News spoke with one of the top Alzheimer's doctors in the world about the FDA's approval.


Dr. Marsel Mesulam of the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease said while the data does not yet prove Aducanumab has a meaningful impact on patients, he is not ruling out the possibility that the proof will eventually come. Mesulam called the FDA approval "a milestone."

Manufactured by Biogen, Aducanumab is a monthly infusion proven to clear a harmful plaque called amyloid from the brain.

"The drug was actually shown to do that very well," Mesulam said. "It does remove amyloid from the brain. The problem is that the efficacy of the drug in behavior and at the clinical stage is not all that convincing."

But Dr. Mesulam is not ruling out that the data based on this treatment will not eventually prove its efficacy.

"It adds hope to our Alzheimer's families," he said.

The Alzheimer's Association of Illinois applauded the FDA's approval, saying the treatment will make a "massive difference" in the lives of millions of Alzheimer's patients.

"So far, the medications that have been made available might help suppress symptoms for a little while, but they haven't had an impact on the progression of the disease," said Melanie Chavin of the Alzheimer's Association's Illinois Chapter. "This one – even though it's a modest effect – does actually slow the progression of the disease for a while."

For Alzheimer's patients like Jerry Turley, 78, of Libertyville, slowing the progression means continuing to live life.

"If I deteriorate, I'm not going to be able to drive. I'm not going to be able to do a bunch of other things that I really still like to do," he said, encouraged by the news of FDA approval.

The Alzheimer's Association says it is likely going to take time before the treatment is widely available. Aducanumab is very expensive, priced at over $4,000 per infusion, and it remains unclear whether it will be covered by insurance plans, and Medicare/Medicaid.