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Alzheimer's patients see hope in new drug’s ability to prolong life

Posted at 8:19 AM, Sep 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 17:41:04-04

PHOENIX — It’s not a cure, but Alzheimer's patients see hope in a new drug’s ability to prolong their lives.

Mike Zuendel can see a future and that’s a very big deal. “Today is a huge day for me. I’m really here for not only myself, but for my mother and father,” Zuendel said.

Zuendel was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's Disease a year ago. He’s one of six million people who have the disease.

As a Colorado resident, Zuendel came to a Gilbert clinic Friday to begin receiving monthly infusions of the drug called Aduhelm.

This past summer, it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is the first new Alzheimer's medication in nearly 20 years.

By attacking the plaque buildup in the brain, Aduhelm is the first drug to go after the biological origins of the disease.

Both of Zuendel’s parents died from the disease. A long painful journey his daughter Dianna witnessed growing up. “It’s a little scary as a kid. Unfortunately we spent approximately 15 years of our lives watching him take care of not only his mother and his father,” Dianna Zuendel said.

“So to see a cure or for us to extend sometime with him that means the world to us.” Dianna added.

Aduhelm is not a cure but it offers Alzheimer's sufferers hope. “If I can get an extra year, an extra two years, an extra day, extra week any time I can delay the progression of the this disease with my family would make me extremely happy,” Zuendel said.

Aduhelm doesn’t come without risk. The side effects include fainting and dizziness, but Zuendel says he’s read all the data and watched the FDA hearings.

He’s convinced the drug will make a difference in his life. “If I compare the side effects of Alzheimer's to the side effects of this drug I will take the drug any day.”

It's uncertain how much of the cost for treatment, if any, will be covered by insurance companies.

The drug is estimated to cost more than $50,000 a year, if a patient has to pay out of pocket.

So begins a new chapter for Mike and his family... Alzheimers has weighed heavily on them.

But, for the first time since he was diagnosed, his wife Brooks West says there is now the promise of tomorrow. “You have to admit to yourself it’s there and it’s not going any where. Until hopefully today.”