SMITH COUNTY, Texas — On Monday, government health officials approved the first new drug for treating Alzheimer’s disease in nearly two decades and while not everybody agrees with the decision the FDA believes the new drug from Biogen is expected to help slow dementia.
Stephanie Taylor, the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County, a local nonprofit helping Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, gave her reaction to the news.
“We haven’t seen any new therapies come out in over 20 years and so we are really excited about the possibilities of this,” Taylor said. “Several months ago we met with a rep from Biogen, just to learn a little bit more about what it was they were researching and just from that meeting we were really excited about the possibilities that this new drug may have for an illness that can be so devastating and fatal and really impacts millions and millions of families.”
Taylor added that the current therapies that are available treat the symptoms, “they might help slow down the progression of the disease, but the Biogen product actually treats the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease and we’ve never had that before and so for us even though the science is still new and fresh it is very promising.”
“Currently Alzheimer’s and related dementias are fatal diseases. They are devastating illnesses that impact not only the person living with a disease, but also their caregivers, family and friends. It is estimated that they were over 5,000 people right here in Smith County that are living with Alzheimer’s disease and that does not include other related dementia’s and then if you think about how many people care for that one person, you know maybe it’s a mother and a daughter, then really the impact right here in smith county, you’re looking at 15,000 to 20,000 folks on a daily basis that are impacted by this devastating illness,” Taylor said.
Taylor went on to add, “It’s my understanding that the FDA approved the drug on the fast-track program, it allows Biogen to continue to do some research and continue to innovate. Now that they I have received FDA approval, we will reconnect with Biogen to try and get as much information on the new therapy and how people here can get the treatment and more on the safety of it, just as quickly as we can so that we will have that information available here at the alliance for the people living with Alzheimer’s disease right here in East Texas.”
“For those going through such a difficult journey, The Alzhimers Aliance has social workers on staff, and support groups. We offer respite care scholarships where someone can come into the home and give the caregiver a break. We teach caregivers that every day the person living with dementia should have the best quality of life and we teach them how to find joy and hope, and we hope to be that to them as we walk alongside everyone in this community that’s impacted by this disease.”
For more information on the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County you can check out their website alzalliance.org/