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Health Spotlight: First FDA-approved drug to slow Alzheimer’s

First FDA-Approved drug to slow Alzheimer’s

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More than 6,000,000 Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – it slowly steals your memories and takes away your mind and body.

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

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on July 6 granted traditional full approval to the Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi, the first medicine proven to slow the course of the memory-robbing disease.

Joan Murtaugh, 77, is sifting through a lifetime of memories.

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

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

“I did see Joan go through a decline,” said Larry Murtaugh.

Joan was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. There was nothing doctors could do, but now, Leqembi can help slow the progression.

“This is the first one that received a full approval,” said Dr. Babak Tousi, a neurogeriatrician with Cleveland Clinic.

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 Tousi.

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 this biomarkers of the disease,” said Tousi.

Joan has been on the medication for three years.

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

“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,” said Joan Murtaugh.

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

Dr. Tousi believes this is just the beginning. Clinical trials are already underway using Leqembi on people who are at high risk for Alzheimer’s but aren’t showing any signs of cognitive decline. In its approval, the FDA included its strongest warning label — called a boxed warning — about side effects, noting that Leqembi can lead to bleeding and brain swelling.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.