Healthbeat: Luzerne County man part of trials for newly approved Alzheimer’s drug

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BEAR CREEK VILLAGE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A local Alzheimer’s patient is weighing in on the first new drug approved to treat the disease in nearly two decades.

He was part of the clinical trials for the drug which, as Eyewitness News told you received FDA approval this week.

The drug is Aducanumab which its makers claim attacks the Alzheimer’s disease process and not just treats dementia symptoms. Even though critics are skeptical of how much it can help, a Bear Creek Village man battling Alzheimer’s says it’s life changing.

63-year-old Kevin Bonham credits his feeling “fantastic” to Aducanumab. He was diagnosed in 2016 with early onset Alzheimer’s and participated in two clinical trials of Biogen’s infusion therapy treatment.

“After you get the infusion, within a day or two you just, everything clears out and you can understand things better. You can reason things better,” Kevin said.

“He had a beautiful, robust response and remained independent and active,” said Kevin’s wife, Kim Bonham.

The couple got the word Monday that Aducanumab, which will be marketed as Aduhelm, was approved by the FDA.

“I started receiving texts and emails from friends and family. It was just the most exciting news,” Kim said.

“I’m so happy that it’s finally here,” said Kevin.

Critics have questioned Aducanumab, claiming incomplete evidence and citing potential brain swelling from every four-week treatment and its $56,000 annual cost.

But advocates see an effective option for the roughly six million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s. 280,000 Pennsylvanians 65 and older are battling the disease with a half-million caregivers providing support.

“This is hopefully going to bring Pennsylvanians hope. You know, for the first time there is something that can be done that can support patients in the earliest stages,” said Brooks Kenny of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.

Treating Alzheimer’s early and slowing its progression could be game-changing for a debilitating disease with so few treatments.

“When you think about Alzheimer’s disease, 60 percent of cases go unrecognized. 60 percent,” Kenny said.

For the Bonhams, an Alzheimer’s drug they’re counting on.

“This treatment has been so effective and we’re glad that others are going to be able to experience the same thing,” said Kim.

“The people had no hope. Now they have hope,” Kevin said.

Despite the FDA giving its approval, it still wants Biogen to demonstrate further effectiveness with the drug. If that trial fails to do that, the FDA could rescind approval.

In the meantime, the treatment could be available by the end of the month.

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