5 things we learned about Alzheimer’s disease in 2023

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PITTSBURGH — More than 6 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With that number continuing to grow, there’s now a renewed effort to find a cure.

“The last few years have been a really exciting time in Alzheimer’s research. There are a lot of talented folks, right out there in Pittsburgh, who are Alzheimer’s Association funded,” said Jeremy Bland of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Greater Pennsylvania Chapter.

One of the biggest headlines of 2023 in the world of Alzheimer’s research and development: in July, the FDA granted traditional approval for the new drug Leqembi for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment in the earlier stages. The FDA also announced the supplemental approval of Rexulti for the treatment of agitation, a symptom of dementia, with another big development in the works.

Additionally, blood tests for Alzheimer’s are coming soon, something doctors said has the potential to be a game changer, being cost-effective and non-invasive.

“Donanemab is another drug that is up for FDA action right now. We’ll expect to have some FDA approvals, questions, things like that in the next few weeks. So it’s really been a great year for some breakthroughs,” Bland said.

“These blood tests show promise, you know, for improving and really redefining how Alzheimer’s is diagnosed in the future,” Bland said.

A study found that chronic constipation could be associated with poor cognitive function, and researchers said that hearing aids could slow cognitive decline for at-risk older adults.

“This hearing intervention improved communication abilities, social abilities, and feeling isolated or alone – it helped combat those feelings,” Bland said.

Finally, the first-ever county-level Alzheimer’s prevalence estimates came out in the United States.

“It’s extremely helpful for public health officials to determine the burden on the health care system and risks/needs,” Bland said.

You can find additional resources on the Alzheimer Association’s website.

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