OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Alzheimer’s disease affects some 5 million people in the United States and as our population ages, doctors estimate those affected will more than double by 2050. A new drug might offer new hope.
With coffee in hand, Mike Hughbanks is ready for his workout. “I do crossword puzzles every morning," he said. His workout doesn’t involve weights or machines. “It helps me mentally. It keeps my brain active."
For as long as Mike can remember, his brain was always razor sharp. “I had a very high IQ."
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."
It wasn't. Mike was diagnosed with early on-set 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 some hope.
Dr. Daniel Murman is a neurologist with UNMC. He's been studying a new drug that can help patients like Mike.
“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%."
At 58-years-old, Mike says 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."
But, he says 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."
Biogen is in the process of seeking approval for aducanumab but Dr. Murman said it will be at least a year-and-a-half before the drug is available.