Since the approval of a new Alzheimer’s drug, patients with hope have been bombarding Dr. Alireza Atri via emails and calls about a treatment that sparks both excitement and skepticism.
They want to find out if the drug is right for them. Atri is like many doctors.
“It’s more than a simple yes or not,” stated the Arizona-based neurologist at Banner Sun Health Research Institute.
This won’t happen for quite some time. Aduhelm is a drug that slows down the progression of the fatal disease. Doctors from across the country are still trying out different options. Other medications for Alzheimer’s only temporarily relieve symptoms such as memory problems, insomnia, and depression.
Although some clinics have started to give the drug, others say that it could take several weeks or months for them to be ready. The biggest payer of this drug, Medicare, still needs to decide which patients will be covered for treatment that can cost over $50,000 per year. Doctors worry that patients and their families will be affected by emotions when they seek the drug.
“People are desperate. It’s a terrible disease,” Dr. Michael Greicius of Stanford University said.
Karl Newkirk wants to begin taking Aduhelm if his physician gives him the okay. He doesn’t believe there are any other treatments that would be worth trying.
The 80-year old Sarasota resident with early-stage Alzheimer’s said, “It looks as if the only star in all the sky.”
Newkirk’s doctor has confirmed that he is a good candidate to receive the drug. The retired technology consultant is still able to ride the roller coasters at Busch Gardens with his grandchildren, but he has short-term memory loss. He’d like to try Aduhelm even though he knows its limitations.
Michele Hall (54), Bradenton, Florida is also eager to discuss the drug with her Alzheimer’s specialist.
Hall, a former government attorney, had to quit her job because she was having trouble with simple tasks such as spelling, public speaking, and remembering deadlines. The Mayo Clinic diagnosed Hall with early Alzheimer’s in November.
Hall describes Aduhelm as “the first small glimmer hope” that she will spend more time with her husband, and their three adult children.
She said, “When you have that diagnosis, you wake up every day and say, ‘Here, it’s ticking away, and I’m just waiting.'” “Well, now you have something positive to look forward too.”