Alzheimer’s treatments on near horizon for Iowans

DES MOINES — National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month is drawing to a close at the same time the hope of progress on understanding and treating the disease is on the immediate horizon.

Iowans could see new medical treatments on the market in the next 12 to 18 months. The treatments are in the last phases of clinical trials and especially could be useful to people who suffer from early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Lauren Livingston, Iowa chapter communications director for the Alzheimer’s Association, said the number of Iowans with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia has grown to 66,000.

“And on top of that, you have to think about all those people who are caring for them, their family and friends,” Livingston emphasized. “More than 73,000 people are helping care for those individuals living with the disease.”

Livingston noted caregivers often face more difficult health challenges than the person who is living with the disease because caregivers spend so many hours caring for their loved one, they often forsake their own health. Livingston pointed to a sharp increase in funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia research as reasons for hope there will soon be more effective treatments.

The National Institutes of Health are investing almost $4 billion on Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related research, a sharp increase from $50 million just a decade ago.

Livingston said the Alzheimer’s Association is also investing heavily, but admits progress on treating the disease can seem slow.

“Alzheimer’s disease wasn’t really recognized until just in the last few decades,” added. “That contributes to it as well because it hasn’t been researched or looked at for as long as other diseases like cancer and heart disease.”

Livingston stressed three new treatments should receive Food and Drug Administration approval in less than a year.