NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The fight against Alzheimer’s disease is entering a new phase as the FDA approved the second ever treatment for the memory robbing disease.

Researchers are excited, but some are sounding alarms over recent reports of several patient deaths and accusations that the FDA acted improperly when it approved the first drug of its kind last year.

While the big picture remains unclear, a Chesapeake couple is finding success in one treatment.

Lynne and Jim Morton are fighting Alzheimer’s head-on. “Doing nothing was never an option for us,” Jim told WAVY.

Lynne began receiving aducanumab infusions just over a year ago as part of a trial.

The FDA granted accelerated approval for the drug last year, but it’s hard to get, and a congressional investigation found the approval process was “rife with irregularities.”

“The bottom line is that the drug from Lynne’s testing this past December, her cognition has stabilized, something we didn’t think was possible,” Jim said.

Lynne’s doctor, Dr. Hamid Okhravi, the director of the EVMS Memory Clinic, shares their enthusiasm for both aducanumab and lecanemab. It was approved last week, also through an accelerated process.

“This is the first time in the history that we have a medicine, or two, that they seem to
affect the underlying cause and seem to be disease modifying agents,” Dr. Okhravi told WAVY.

There are currently more than 6 million people with Alzheimer’s in the United States however, the doctor said, these new medicines will not be right for everyone.

“This is a medicine that helps people who have very mild to mild memory problems, people at the moderate stage or severe stage this medicine unfortunately does not help.”

The price tag is a huge hurdle as well.

Each cost upward of $25,000 a year and insurance does not yet cover the cost.

There are also clinical challenges Dr. Okhravi explained. Both drugs are given via infusion and require frequent MRIs to monitor the brain.

“Unfortunately memory clinics right now they are not prepared for this medication to take on at a large scale,” he said.

The doctor hopes that will not be an issue in a year, when the medications should become more readily available. Offering to more families the kind of hope Lynne found.

“We were doing the happy dance after the last testing!” she giggled.

Dr. Okhravi believes the FDA will give lecanumb full approval later this year.

Once that happens he hopes that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid will decide to pay for it, something many patients, doctors, and the Alzheimer’s Association are lobbying to happen.