Medical Moment: FDA approves first-ever drug to slow Alzheimer’s

Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 5:36 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease; it slowly steals your memories and takes away your mind.

There is no cure yet, but now, a newly FDA-approved drug is helping to slow its progression before it’s too late.

77-year-old Joan Murtaugh is sifting through a lifetime of memories.

“We’ve got grandchildren that we really enjoy,” Joan said.

But a few years ago, Joan and her husband Larry felt something was off.

“I did see Joan go through a decline,” recalled Larry Murtaugh, Joan’s husband.

Joan was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. There was nothing doctors could do. But now, a recently FDA-approved drug helps slow the progression.

“This is the first one that received full approval,” said ???

The medication, Leqembi, reduces amyloid plaque in the brain that’s been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

“If, somehow, you interrupt this cascade of amyloid buildup in the brain, you may be able to slow down this progression,” said Dr. Babak Tousi, neurogeriatrician.

Early-stage Alzheimer’s patients who received the medication had a 27% reduction of amyloid beta plaque, and a slower rate of cognitive decline. Doctors also saw a decrease in another harmful brain protein, TAU tangles.

“It’s not just removing the plaque amyloid; we were able to show all these changes in these biomarkers of the disease,” Dr. Tousi continued.

Joan has been on the medication for three years.

“I think she’s clear, she’s sharper,” Larry said.

“When I think about it, I can still drive a car; I mean, I can go back and forth and do the things I always did,” Joan said.

Joan and Larry hope it will continue to work, and they’ll continue to create many more memories together.

Clinical trials are already underway using the drug on people who are at high risk for Alzheimer’s.