Everyone has moments when they are forgetful, but in Alzheimer’s patients being forgetful interferes with everyday living. Alzheimer’s occurs when the brain cell connections and the cells themselves degenerate and die slowly thus causing memory and other important mental functions to start failing. Even though there is still currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new medication. Leesburg neurologist, Dr. Sarbjot Dulai, reviews what Alzheimer’s Disease is, its symptoms, current treatment, and how this new medication is making changes in how Alzheimer’s is treated.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating disease that affects 6.2 million Americans. It is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually, the ability to carry out simple tasks. The specific causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not currently fully known; however, it is characterized by changes in the brain —including amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary, or tangles—-that result in the loss of neurons and their connections. These changes then affect a person’s ability to remember and think. The destructions of the neurological connections results in Alzheimer’s gradually takes over a person’s bodily functions to the point that ‘round the clock intensive care is needed.
A quick overview of symptoms
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease vary with each patient, and can include:
- Memory loss
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulties with language and communicating
- An inability to focus or pay attention
- Difficulty with judgment and reasoning
- Issues with visual perception
- Mood and behavior changes
- unfounded suspicions about family, friends, and caregivers
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s
Medication and management strategies have been the leading ways to treat Alzheimer’s, as there is unfortunately no cure currently. The medications and management strategies available can temporarily improve or delay symptoms. On average people with Alzheimer’s live eight to ten years after the first symptoms develop. Also, Alzheimer’s stages are not exact, so individual responses to drugs may vary and treatment options limited. Working with a knowledgeable health care team can help you find the best strategies to manage your symptoms and prolong your independence.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms, or Alzheimer’s runs in your family, make an appointment with Dulles neurologist Dr. Sarbjot Dulai to learn more today.
What you should know about the new drug for Alzheimer’s Disease
As of June 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Aduhelm (Aducanumab) for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is the newest medication released for Alzheimer’s Disease since 2003. It is the first medication that was created to target the underlying disease itself, not just to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. However, it was released with some controversy. The FDA’s own advisory committee voted against approving the drug in November 2020 citing there was a lack of strong evidence that the drug would work. “Currently available therapies only treat symptoms of the disease; this treatment option (the Aduhelm) is the first therapy to target and affect the underlying disease process of Alzheimer’s.” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, MD director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Most Alzheimer medications are used to treat the specific symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease that are present in different stages of the disease. They unfortunately cannot cure the disease itself or stop its progression. However, this new drug is a monoclonal antibody that reduces the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques, as well as tangles known as tau and other changes in the brain, are what lead to memory loss and eventually the inability to perform simple tasks like dressing oneself or signing your own name. Many experts are hopeful that the approval of Aducanumab will pave the way for future Alzheimer’s drugs that are more effective and eventually even lead to a cure for the disease.
Aduhelm is given intravenously once a month, and currently the price of these infusions is around $56,000. Biogen and Eisai, the companies that are currently marketing Aduhelm have promised to help patients access the drug by providing service coordinators who can help patients through the process one on one. There is still a lot of work to figure out the specifics with how insurance companies, Medicare, and even those without health insurance will be able to get the cost of the medicine down. Unfortunately, that all takes precious time that some patients cannot afford.
According to Julia Biernot, MD, a neurologist with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Aduhelm is not for every with Alzheimer’s Disease. “It is important to know that it is most likely going to be indicated in patients who have mild Alzheimer’s Disease or mild cognitive impairment, as opposed to more advanced disease. There may also be potential side effects that need to be discussed with patients and their families.”
One of the most common side effects is a condition known as Amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA). It has been found in 41% of patients, and symptoms include temporary swelling in the brain, along with small areas of bleeding.
With this information in mind, it is very important to consult with a specialist such as Dr. Sarbjot Dulai, a neurologist with offices in Dulles and Leesburg, VA. His expertise and knowledge will be able to help walk you through your diagnosis and treatment plan, as well as picking the best health care professionals to make up your team of care for the best quality of life.
Schedule an appointment with your neurologist today!
Schedule an appointment with neurology specialist in Leesburg, Dr. Sarbjot Dulai. He can discuss with you any symptoms you may have of Alzheimer’s Disease, provide a diagnosis, and discuss the best treatment options including any new medications that may be available for this condition. Call Neurology Associates today at (703) 726-6393.