In a trial of 16 patients, a drug to treat immune system disorders halted the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. The three-year long trial has broken ground in the fight against this disease that wreaks havoc on not only the patient but on all those that love the patient. Here’s what you should know about the drug Gammagard:
The effectiveness of Gammagard is one of its most interesting qualities. Of those given the drug, only patients who received an intermediate dose were found to benefit. Those patients given varying doses of the drug or a placebo experienced no benefit at all. The drug works by blocking the formation of beta amyloid, but the mechanism of the drug is unclear. What researchers do know is that beta amyloid is one of the key causes of Alzheimer’s. A very exact dosage of Gammagard is used to halt the onset of worsening symptoms of the disease.
Despite hopes, Gammagard has not been shown to reverse Alzheimer’s disease, though the drug has been shown to halt the progression of the disease in its tracks. Those patients who were given an intermediate dose have spent years in the mild stages of the disease, enjoying a quality of life thus far unreported in Alzheimer’s patients. Of those patients receiving the placebo, further mental decline was halted as soon as they were given the intermediate dose of Gammagard.
Serious side effects have been found to occur in those patients who are sensitive to Immunoglobulin A and those susceptible to anaphylactic reactions. General side effects include renal failure, aseptic meningitis and the spontaneous clotting of blood. Patients are urged to consider the potential side effects and weigh them against possible benefits of drug therapy.
The drug will not be widely available until mid-2013 at the earliest. To receive FDA approval, Gammagard must be shown safe and effective in a 390-person study. The study is currently being conducted and is expected to conclude in the near future. Once approved by the FDA, the drug will be available to the public by prescription only.
There is no information on how much the drug will cost once it receives FDA approval, but physicians in some states are currently prescribing the drug off-label to their patients. For these patients, the drug is costing roughly $4,200 per month, or approximately $50,000 per year. The drug is not currently covered by any insurance provider, though coverage is expected once the drug receives approval. Unfortunately, if someone you love is currently suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, the cost of the drug can be crippling.
Though the cost of Gammagard is currently prohibitive to all but the wealthiest among us, the results of clinical trials offers promise for the future. In just a few short years, we may see our loved ones prescribed medication that can halt the progression of dementia, enabling families to have moments of joy that would otherwise have been lost to this terrible disease.