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Dementia Australia has welcomed the announcement by the US Food and Drug Administration approving the first new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease for almost twenty years.

The new approach is not a cure, but could offer major benefits. Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the new treatment option, known as Aducanumab, was exciting news for the entire dementia community globally.

‘This announcement provides real hope for people who are developing symptoms and in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,’ said Ms McCabe. ‘Importantly, this will result in further research investment into more treatments for all forms of dementia.’

The drug will be available in the United States and is currently under review by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia with an announcement expected early in 2022.

Dementia Australia

Coming to Australia?

‘It may be some time before it is accessible in Australia,’ said Ms McCabe. ‘If or when that time comes it will be important for people to have access to appropriate information to enable them to make an informed choice about their treatment.’

Aducanumab includes antibodies designed to attach to and remove amyloid plaques. These plaques are thought to cause the damage in the brain that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia Australia Honorary Medical Advisor Associate Professor Michael Woodward AM said that the drug should make it possible to significantly reduce the rate of memory and other decline associated with Alzheimer’s.

‘We can’t bring back brain tissue that has been damaged irreversibly but we can protect brain tissue by removing the toxic effects of this amyloid,’ said Assoc. Prof. Woodward.

‘The original trials were terminated when it looked like the drug wasn’t working – at that stage there weren’t many people on the highest dose of the drug,’ he explained.

‘When researchers examined more data that included more people who had been, for longer periods, on the highest dose they demonstrated a significant effect.

‘Aducanumab should only be used in the early stages of dementia and may not work for everyone, said Assoc. Prof. Woodward.

‘It can also cause side effects and these need to be carefully monitored with regular MRIs It is possible that, if used very early in Alzheimer’s disease, this drug will prevent the emergence of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but there is still research to be done in this area,’ he said.

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Trial participants credited

Maree McCabe acknowledged the 100 Australians who have been part of the study. ‘I applaud them and all trial participants for their contribution to this research,’ she said.

Anyone wanting more information about Aducanumab can call 1800 852 289 or email Medinfo-aunz@biogen.com.

The National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 is also available for Australians to call to discuss any questions they might have about this announcement. People looking for information can also visit dementia.org.au.