The Food and Drug Administration has approved aducanumab-avwa, or Aduhelm, to help treat Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Aduhelm?
It’s a medication that contains antibodies that target amyloid-beta plaques. These plaques are hard, insoluble proteins that build up between neurons in the brain. As amyloid-beta plaques spread, they can affect your ability to learn, form memories and speak.
Aduhelm reduces the amount of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain. However, it is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, nor is it clear if it slows the progression of the disease.
How is Aduhelm Administered?
This new Alzheimer’s medication is delivered via intravenous infusions once every four weeks for 24 weeks. A full dose takes an hour to complete.
Dosage is based on your body weight and only available by prescription. You may require an MRI before and during the duration of your treatment.
What are the Side Effects of Aduhelm?
Common side effects include:
- Changes in vision
There are also risks for amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA side effects), which include:
- Brain swelling
- Small brain bleeds
- Allergic reactions – swelling of the lips, mouth, face and/or throat or hives on the body
Those symptoms are temporary and usually go away over time. However, you should report any symptoms to your doctor immediately to avoid adverse health complications. You may also require a brain imaging scan if you experience side effects.
What Does This Mean for Alzheimer’s Treatment?
Alzheimer’s therapies will always require a multi-faceted approach that includes non-pharmacologic elements, including diet, sleep, stress management, mental health and exercise.
Aduhelm is the first new Alzheimer’s treatment to be manufactured since 2003. Other Alzheimer’s medications temporarily ease symptoms such as memory loss and confusion, but Aduhelm is the first Alzheimer’s treatment to address the underlying process that causes cognitive impairment.
This medication takes a more proactive approach to treating memory loss. It’s also more convenient for patients because it doesn’t require daily administration.
Aduhelm was approved for the accelerated approval pathway by the FDA to provide patients with earlier access. However, it still needs to go through a confirmatory clinical trial.