Doctors hail first drug to ‘slow down’ Alzheimer’s

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A nurse holds the hands of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease on September 21, 2009 at Les Fontaines retirement home in Lutterbach , eastern France. Scientists working in seven countries announced last week they had uncovered variants of three genes which play a role in Alzheimer’s, a discovery that should throw open many new avenues for tackling this mind-killing disease. AFP PHOTO / SEBASTIEN BOZON (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)

Doctors have welcomed a “turning point” in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease after the development of a drug apparently able to slow the condition if it is caught in its earliest stages.

It would be the first effective treatment for the biggest single cause of dementia, validating billions of pounds of research and decades of work.

Biogen’s drug, aducanumab, would also be one of the most stunning reversals in the history of pharmaceutical development. Like several similar products, it had originally failed in trials.

  • Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.
  • Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease (also known as early-onset Alzheimer’s).
  • Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.        

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Dean Nestor

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