Amherst, NY (WKBW) — Efforts to help people living with Alzheimer’s disease are expanding.
It was two weeks ago that the FDA approved Lekhembi as the first treatment for degenerative disease.
Now we have a new player on the field.
7 News’ Feven Kasahun spoke with local experts to find out how the new treatment works and the impact it could have on our community.
“My prognosis at that point was 18 months to 5 years,” said David Gonlag.
David Gonlag was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to memory loss in 2015.
It is defined as early or mild stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Eight years later, his diagnosis defies expectations, as his condition is progressing much more slowly than doctors thought it would plateau in about four years.
“In my case, the frontotemporal lobe was atrophied. It took another year or so to get approval for a pet scan, which was consistent with that diagnosis,” Gonlag explained.
Since his diagnosis, his memory has begun to deteriorate and he has been forced to quit his day job as a corporate accountant.
He currently serves on the Early Stage Advisory Board of the Alzheimer’s Society West York Chapter.
Gonlag has a family history of Alzheimer’s disease that goes back four generations.
He said education helped him figure it out.
“The biggest thing for me was how to deal with it. I grew up in kindergarten with my great-grandmother. I was a young man with young children when my grandmother got the disease. We were both adults taking care of my aunt, so I’ve seen it from all sides,” Gonrag added.
He is believed to be in the early stages, which could make him a potential target for a new Alzheimer’s drug called lecanemab, which is marketed under the drug name Rekenbi, which received FDA approval this month.
Another drug that made headlines this week, donanemab, is still in clinical trials but is said to be promising.
“This is not a simple treatment of taking pills with few side effects.
Kinga Szigeti, M.D., Ph.D., is the founding director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Impairment at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine.
Dr. Shigeti said, “This type of drug has been studied for about 15 to 20 years, and there have been no breakthrough discoveries, so this is very interesting. The disease is very complicated.”
Dr. Sigeti said the drug is being considered for milder patients, including those who still drive, live alone, or go about their daily lives with minimal supervision, but once they reach the modern stage of dementia, the drug becomes ineffective.
“It’s actually more of a preventive drug,” says Dr. Sigeti. It slows the progression of the disease in the very early stages when people are still very healthy. Both of these drugs have been shown to be most effective in people who do not yet have Alzheimer’s disease. They have Alzheimer’s disease in their brains and have some memory problems. “
But there is still a sliver of hope for people like Gonlag.
“Every day I get to spend with my family is just a blessing. I still have my down days, but that’s all because of it. It’s part of the communication to let people know it’s okay,” Gonlag said.