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MN advocates of those dealing with Alzheimer’s celebrate experimental drug that slows cognitive decline

More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 100,000 in Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota advocates of those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease celebrated Wednesday what they called a rare victory in the battle against dementia.

On Tuesday, the Japanese drug maker Eisai announced its experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease helped slow cognitive decline in patients in the early stages of the illness. More specifically, the company – which also partnered with the U.S. drug maker Biogen in the commercialization of the drug – said a recent study revealed that lecanemab slowed cognitive decline by 27% after 18 months.

And that’s welcomed news for those fighting this cruel disease.

“Karla, this is huge and literally, it brought tears to my eyes [Tuesday] night, when news started coming across my phone,” Susan Parriott, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota, North Dakota chapter, told KARE 11’s Karla Hult.

Some critics have reportedly challenged the modest effects of the medication, which targets amyloid plaques – clumps of protein in the brain long believed a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. But Parriott said that while the drug is not for everyone – it must be administered in the early stages of the disease – it offers the most encouraging results to date in clinical trials treating the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s.

“If your loved one is in a nursing home already, this probably, this is not going to apply to them. But for the families, and the future families that this is going to impact, this is huge. This is a gamechanger,” Parriott said, adding that it was also a message she looked forward to sharing with the greater Alzheimer’s community: “Eleven years I’ve been here working with you trying to make change and believing that hope is there. Having that hope and belief that we will find it and to have something come out – it’s a big deal.”

More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 100,000 in Minnesota. Additionally, more than 11 million family members and friends provide unpaid care to those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

As for next steps, the drug companies have submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. A decision is expected as early as January.

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association and their support of ongoing research and resources for those on the journey, just click here.

Note: KARE 11's Karla Hult lost her own father to Alzheimer’s in 2019, a painful journey she documented and shared on KARE 11. She remains relentlessly supportive of the Minnesota-North Dakota chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and also started a company, So Many Goodbyes, dedicated to helping others – families, caregivers and the greater community – deal with this cruel disease.

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