‘Hope begins’ for local Alzheimer’s patients after FDA approval of new drug

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The United States Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Aduhelm, a new drug the administration says has been proven to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s.

It is the first of its kind and the first new treatment in almost 20 years.

Southside Savannah resident Rodrick Stephenson was diagnosed with the disease in July of last year. He is one of 6.2 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the U.S.

“I saw was grey and black,” said Deborah Stephenson, his wife of 21 years. “I saw nothing but that because the Alzheimer’s word itself connects to the end stage.”

Ms. Stephenson says she felt that sense of hopelessness for a month after the diagnosis.

But she says the new FDA approved drug changes the picture she painted in her head.

“It was just a ray of sun coming through the horizon,” she said.

“Until now, there has been no hope for people who have gotten the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. With this new drug, the hope begins,” said Mr. Stephenson.

Optimistic and eager, he says if he is eligible, he is taking the drug. He does not worry much about the side effects.

A report from the FDA mentions headaches and disorientation as common side effects.

“You can’t threaten me with heaven,” said Mr. Stephenson.

The executive director of Georgia’s chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association says the new drug went through 11 years of clinical trials.

“The actual drug has the ability to slow down those amyloid plaques which are what develops — that’s what PET scans show to determine if someone has Alzheimer’s,” explained Linda Davidson.

For many, it means hope for the future: one with new possibilities, new treatments and new memories.

“The door has been opened and there hasn’t been anything like this ever,” said Ms. Stephenson.

“This is truly about hope for all those with the disease,” said Davidson. “We also feel like it’s going to get more people into the Alzheimer’s disease research looking for more innovation. We feel like this is the first of more to come.”

Davidson suggests speaking with your physician about the effectiveness drug and about its potential side effects. It is mainly designed for people in the early stages of the disease.

A 24/7 hotline is available through the Alzheimer’s Association for people seeking help, support and company. The number to call is 800-272-3900.

Caregivers can call 855-476-7600.

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