Aducanumab, developed by Biogen, a Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech company, acts as a monoclonal antibody, and has shown impressive results in early tests on patients with early stages of the disease. The drug reduced the amyloid plaque buildup in the brain, a commonly associated symptom in those affected by Alzheimer’s. Additional results in the tests showed a reduction of cognitive decline and dementia.
According to the Mini Mental Status Exam, people at risk of Alzheimer’s who got a placebo lost around 3 points over a year. In contrast, those participants who got the lowest dose of aducanumab worsened by just two points, and those who got a higher dose lost less than a point.
The study involved 166 volunteers, and prompted the company to immediately move to a much bigger clinical trial. There is no doubt that many would be extremely excited by the prospect of an Alzheimer’s treatment, but there are more questions lurking beneath the surface.
In the U.S. about 5 million people have Alzheimer’s. A pill that could offer those people some extra time with their loved ones is regarded as an important step forward. However, there is no guarantee that this will lessen the fear surrounding the disease, or if it will even effectively stop the dying process.
The treatment also calls into question many ethical debates, such as who will get the pill and why. If such a cure existed, it is not guaranteed that it would be available to everyone.
Furthermore, the cost is another important aspect of the matter, not to mention whether living longer with the disease is in fact such a good thing.
Currently, family members of patients of Alzheimer’s have reasons to be happy about, but later tests and provide answers to these concerns.