FDA approves controversial new Alzheimer’s drug

Local News

EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) — For the first time in nearly 20 years the FDA approved a new medicine that will help treat Alzheimer’s patients in the early stages of the disease.

The new drug, called Aduhelm or aducanumab, was approved June 7.

Researchers said that the approval of a new Alzheimer’s drug after so long is a positive moment for people battling Alzheimer’s. The last drug approved was in 2003.

“It’s a message that the pain of these people and their caregivers is being heard,” said Dr. Gladys Maestre, a professor of neuroscience at UTRGV.

Aducanumab would only be administered to people in the early stages of the disease in an effort to slow it’s progression.

Dr. Maestre said such a drug could be highly sought after in the Rio Grande Valley.

“There is a special interest because of all the counties in the whole nation, we have the counties with the highest number, highest proportion of people with Alzheimer’s,” said Maestre.

She said that a report from the Wall Street Journal, which you can read here, showed that Starr County had the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s of any county in the entire country.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “older Latinos are about one-and-a-half times as likely as older whites to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

Maestre, who is also the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center at UTRGV, is not fully convinced the approval by the FDA was appropriate.

She said that Aducanumab, which is developed by Biogen, was approved through the FDA’s “accelerated approval” and had conflicting results in its Phase 3 trials.

“They ran two trials at the same time and the two of them, one was reported to be effective, the other was non effective,” said Maestre.

She said that more time would be needed to prove the effectiveness and safety of the drug, especially since Maestre said that Hispanics made up a small percentage of the trials.

On top of the conflicting trial results, the price of aducanumab will make it difficult to afford.

“The cost of the drug is going to be extremely high. The minimum is 10,000 dollars per year, but there are estimates that this could be 10,000 dollars per month,” said Maestre.

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