Why a new Alzheimer’s drug brings concern to local doctors

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CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ) — The Alzheimer’s Association reports 280,000 people aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease in Pennsylvania.

The FDA’s approval of the new Alzheimer’s Disease drug is bringing a backlash as Doctors said there is not enough proof it works.

While this is currently the only option to slow the progression of the disease, the Conemaugh Health System said there are safety concerns among vulnerable populations, so at this point, they are using caution and not offering it.

Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, Stroke Medical Director, Nicholas Lanciano said the risk of the Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm, could be more concerning than the benefit.

“A risk of about 1/3rd of patients having brain edema as a side effect from the medication, now thankfully those patients that get brain edema, it looks like 80% of those are asymptomatic, although we dont fully understand the long term consequence of that yet, there is also a side effect of headache in a reaction to the infusion as well,” Dr. Lanciano said.

Dr. Lanciano said there is strong evidence that the drug does exactly what it’s supposed to.

“In Alzheimer’s Disease, what we see is proteins end up in certain parts of the brain and that causes the neurons to die what the drug does is it goes in and takes those proteins and stops them from laying or being deposited within the brain so it works on trying to protect the brain from these bad proteins that cause the disease.”

So the question is, does this slow the progression of memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients?

“Just because we are affecting what we believe is the problem in Alzheimer’s disease, doesn’t mean we are actually affecting Alzheimer’s disease and that’s really where the controversy lies in trying to figure this all out,” Dr. Lanciano said.

Dr. Lanciano said no matter what, this drug gives him hope that there will be brighter days ahead.

“We now have a drug that is doing something we haven’t had done in 2 decades and so whether the drug works or not down the road is less important to me in the fact that we’re understanding coming up with better things and therapeutics to approach this disease, so I’m hopeful that in the future there will also be a plethora of options,” Dr. Lanciano said.

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