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FDA Approval Of Alzheimer's Drug Provides Hope And Sparks Controversy

Biogen headquarters
Alzheimer's treatment drug Aduhelm was developed by Biogen [shutterstock]

Many among us have known someone, a friend, a neighbor, a parent or grandparent, who has gone through the long and devastating illness that is Alzheimer's disease.

It's a progressive disease, one where dementia symptoms worsen gradually, from mild memory loss, to severe cognitive decline. Including the inability for the individual to carry on a conversation or respond to their environment.

The Alzheimer's Association tells us that more than six million Americans are living with the disease, but on Monday, for the first time in almost two decades the Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug, said to slow the progression of the disease.

But the decision to approve the drug known as Aducanumab, which also goes by the brand name Aduhelm has been controversial in the scientific community. The review process was riddled with unusual twists and turns, before ultimately getting the green light for the FDA.

Some question its effectiveness and others question its very high price tag. The company that makes the drug -- Biogen -- says it is charging $56,000 dollars, for an annual course of the new treatment. And that’s on top of additional costs for screenings and tests associated with the drug.

Also the drug is only expected to help sufferers in the early stages of Alzheimer's, not those who have already experienced advanced cognitive decline.

This hour, we'll hear from many different perspectives on the news.

First, we'll talk to a healthcare reporter who will help us better understand the debate surrounding the drug. Then, we'll talk to a doctor leading the clinical trial of the drug in Cleveland, who's also a scientific advisor for Biogen. We'll also talk to one of the local clinical trial participants, and his wife.
And, the head of the Regional Alzheimer's Association joins us as well.

Later in the hour, we’ll hear from Cleveland author Laura DeMarco. She’s written about Cleveland past, and how it’s changing before our eyes. But this time she tackles a bigger topic, The US Civil War, and how many of it’s locations – battlefields, hospitals, encampments, are being lost to time.


"Lost Civil War" Book Launch


- Harris Meyer, Freelance Healthcare Reporter, Kaiser Health News
- Dr. Babak Tousi, Head of Clinical Trials Program at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
- Lindsay Walker, Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Association Cleveland Area & Greater East Ohio Chapter 
- Colleetta DeChant,  Caregiver
- Ron DeChant, Person living with Alzheimer's
- Laura DeMarco, Author, "Lost Civil War"

Drew Maziasz is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and also serves as the show’s technical producer.