SAN ANTONIO – The last few years have been called a major turning point in Alzheimer’s research.
Another treatment has now been approved that targets the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s, not just the symptoms.
Then last week, data was released on a potential third drug.
“I want to spread the word,” said Alzheimer’s patient Gail Youngdale.
Gail lives in Dallas, where she has access to the most recently approved treatment called lecanemab, brand name Leqembi.
Gail’s mother died of Alzheimer’s disease. Then, years later, she herself began to forget names and lose memories.
“My kids told me, ‘You’re doing some of the same things Grandma did,’ and it bothered me,” Gail said.
“We realized as a family that Mom was showing some of these symptoms as well, but very early on,” said Gail’s daughter, Terri Youngdale.
Terri said it was early enough for her mother to enroll in a clinical trial for a new Alzheimer’s drug.
After Gail’s diagnosis in 2018, they found Kerwin Medical Centerwhich runs clinical trials to find treatments for Alzheimer’s.
The trial Gail participated in was global and she began treatment about two years ago.
“I’m doing this for the people of the world, not just me, not just my family,” she said.
Gail is proud to be part of a trial that helped the FDA approve Leqembi.
“Suddenly Alzheimer’s is a manageable disease. It’s amazing!” Teri said.
“It’s great, but I have to say it’s not a quick fix. It’s not a cure either,” Gail said.
For two years, Gail has been doing the infusions along with MRIs, PET scans, blood tests and other assessments.
“You don’t just go to the pharmacy and pick it up and go home and take the medicine. You need to be tested,” Gail explained.
When asked if it was all worth it, she said: “Absolutely, it was worth it. It didn’t hurt me one bit.”
Gail explained that without Leqembi, she would not have been able to speak with KSAT for the interview. She said she owes her current ability to the medication.
“Medicare and Medicaid have agreed to cover the drug when it is available to distribute,” Gail said.
Greg Sciuto, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of San Antonio and South Texas, said the current pace of research is astounding.
“I started with the Alzheimer’s Association in 2015, and at the time treatment that actually affected the underlying biology of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease was science fiction. This is the most that has been done in the hundred-plus years that we have known about this disease , after it was first identified in 1906,” Sciuto said.
He said the three new Alzheimer’s drugs are all infusions that remove plaque that builds up in the brain, which causes dementia.
– The first treatment called Aduhelm was FDA approved three years ago, reducing cognitive decline by 15%.
– Leqembi was approved this year, reducing the decline by 27%.
– Last week at an international conference, data was released on Donanemab, a treatment currently in clinical trials, showing up to a 35% reduction.
“What all three have in common is that they are most effective in the earliest stages of dementia,” Sciuto said.
That’s why Gail got involved as soon as possible and with Leqembi she sees an amazing improvement.
“My mind is much clearer than it used to be and I’m sleeping well and eating well,” Gail said.
She even began to pick up old interests that she had let go of years ago.
“There’s a needle pattern that I haven’t seen in a long time!” Terri said with a huge smile. “And her crocheting again.”
“If I have any music, I could play the piano. I gave all my music away,” Gail said.
She has renewed hobbies, renewed hope and a mission to break a century-old stigma.
“She sees it as her strength, whereas many people with Alzheimer’s or dementia see it as their weakness,” Terri said.
“I’m not ashamed of it. It’s just something that happened,” Gail said.
It is something that is happening to millions, who now have more treatment options than ever before.
If you or a loved one starts to see signs of dementia, it may be time to see a doctor.
The Alzheimer’s Association is there to help and support you and find resources.
Call (210) 822-6449 or visit its website.
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