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CMH neurologist says new Alzheimer’s drug is biggest breakthrough in nearly 20 years

The Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval June 7 of the drug Aduhelm (aducanumab) for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Curtis P. Schreiber, M.D., medical director of Missouri Medical Center and CMH Neurology and Headache Center in Bolivar, was excited about the announcement.

“This is the biggest breakthrough for Alzheimer’s disease research in almost 20 years,” says Dr. Schreiber. “The drugs that have been approved up until this point have only treated the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. This is the first treatment that may help the disease from worsening over time.”

Dr. Schreiber has 30 years of experience as a neurologist in southwest Missouri and is board certified by the American Board of Neurology with subspecialty certification in Headache Medicine. He is the principle investigator for research studies in Alzheimer’s and headache medicine at CMH Neurology Research.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 6.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and 120,000 Missourians aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease.

“What science has been looking for is a way to treat the underlying problems of Alzheimer’s disease and to treat what is happening in the brain,” says Dr. Schreiber.

The new drug, developed by Biogen, is the first to slow the progression of the disease. The FDA granted approval for the new drug amid controversy and is requiring Biogen to conduct a follow-up clinical trial to verify its effectiveness and prove clinical benefit.

“Aducanumab is very effective at removing amyloid beta plaque from the brain. Amyloid is a protein that is a hallmark of the disease. It starts early in the disease process and is required to fully diagnose Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Schreiber. “We know that this drug will remove amyloid, but the real question is will it help patients with cognition. The jury is still out on its overall effectiveness.”

Although Aduhelm will not cure Alzheimer’s disease it is an important treatment that may help people with mild cognitive impairment or those with the mildest stages of AD.

“This is a call to action for those who have memory changes to get checked out,” says Dr. Schreiber. “In the past some doctors thought, ‘why bother even diagnosing someone with AD’ because there was not treatment for it. This approval has turned things upside down. It really means people should not wait to talk to their health care providers about their concerns. Early detection is the key and this drug may be an effective treatment option for some patients.”

According to Dr. Schreiber, the Missouri Memory Center has been contacted by Biogen to participate in the follow-up study for the region, but they are still working out the details.

“This is an exciting time and there is something new to talk about for Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment,” says Dr. Schreiber. “This will not be the answer for everybody, but this is a new option for some people and the dawn of a new era for Alzheimer’s disease treatment.”

People who have memory concerns should talk to their primary care providers about making a referral to Dr. Schreiber at Missouri Memory Center and CMH Neurology and Headache Center call 417-327-3530.

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