1st Houston patient receives new Alzheimer drug at Memorial Hermann

1st patient in Houston receives treatment
1st patient in Houston receives treatment

HOUSTON – A new drug, Aducanumab, was approved by the FDA earlier this month. It allegedly slows the rate of Alzheimer’s progress.

And now, for the first time, a Houston patient received the drug through an IV on Wednesday.

Rolfe and Carol Johnson said Alzheimer’s symptoms have made everyday life more challenging since Rolfe’s diagnosis five years ago.

“Like putting things down and forgetting where they are. Forgetting where my car is after putting it in a parking lot,” Rolfe described.

The disease typically starts with similar stories of forgetfulness and then declines without mercy.

Now, professor of neurology with McGovern Medical School at UT Health, Dr. Paul Schulz, said the prognosis for Johnson and future patients may be good.

“For the first time, we’re giving them a medicine that we know has an impact. It doesn’t cure it, but it has an impact on the disease,” Schulz said. “In general, all of the patients in the trial did better than expected, and so, we’re hoping that he will also.”

The drug works by attacking the amyloid plaque that builds up in the brain and causes the progression of the disease.

However, Aducanumab has been met with a lot of controversies. In November, an advisory panel of experts recommended against approving the drug, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to show it worked.

The FDA said that while the expert community “offered differing perspectives,” it feels the “benefits outweigh the risks of the therapy.”

“I am eager to have that medication, any medication that would give me some relief,” Rolfe said.

Rolfe is what Memorial Hermann calls a “pilot patient,” and therefore they’ve covered his cost of the infusion for six months. After six months, they’re hoping insurance companies will pay for the treatment, but as of now, since it is so new to the market, insurance companies do not cover it.

The pharmaceutical company, Biogen, which manufactures the drug, said without insurance, the treatment would be $56,000 a year.