OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT/Gray News) - Alzheimer’s disease affects some 5 million people in the United States, and as the population ages, doctors estimate those affected will more than double by 2050.
A new drug might offer new hope, WOWT reported.
With coffee in hand, Mike Hughbanks is ready for his workout, but it doesn’t involve weights or machines.
“I do crossword puzzles every morning," he said. “It helps me mentally. It keeps my brain active."
For as long as Hughbanks can remember, his brain was always razor sharp. “I had a very high IQ," he said.
For decades, he was a finance executive in Omaha - most recently, the chief operating officer at Diversified Financial. Then he noticed a change.
“I was leaving my coffee cup in places in the office, taking file folders to the wrong people - knew something was not quite right,” Hughbanks said.
It wasn’t. Hughbanks was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
“'Give me the prescription,'” was his response to the news. “'I’ll take it. Everything will be fine.' But that’s when we kind of had the brutal awakening - ‘Well, Mike, there is no pill. There is no cure for Alzheimers.’"
There is no cure, but soon, there could be some hope.
Dr. Daniel Murman, a neurologist with University of Nebraska Medical Center, has been studying a new drug that can help patients like Hughbanks.
“The drug is aducanumab,” he said. “It was targeted for people who have very mild symptoms we call mild cognitive impairment."
Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease that affects circuits of the brain like memory and eventually progresses to impact other aspects of thinking.
In clinical tests, aducanumab given to patients monthly by IV has proven effective.
“People getting the drug seemed to have less change in their memory and everyday function. It seemed to slow down the progression of their problem by about 30%,” Murman said.
Biogen is in the process of seeking approval for aducanumab, but Murman said it will be at least a year and 1/2 before the drug is available.
At 58 years old, Hughbanks said he was supposed to be focusing on retirement and enjoying the last years of his career, “and then all of a sudden it just like comes to an end,” he said. “And it’s like, OK, well, this isn’t where we wanted to be.”
He’s taking life day by day, but he can’t help worrying about his memory.
“Day to day, um, the small things, we haven’t noticed a lot of change,” Hughbanks said.
But he said a new drug on the horizon could bring hope, whether it be for him or someone else.
“In my lifetime, I would love to see that first survivor - the first person that can say that ‘I am cured. I do not have Alzheimer’s anymore.’ That’s kind of my dream.”