More than 5 million men and women are living with Alzheimer's in the U.S. alone. Right now, the only drugs available to them only help to relieve the symptoms. There's nothing approved that will stop its progression.
That could soon be changing.
Joyce Mason can remember the words to her favorite song. But some days, this former psychiatric nurse gets lost in her own home.
"Which sounds crazy. I have days that are not as good as others," says Joyce.
She was diagnosed with dementia four years ago. Her husband, Sam, watches his wife slip away.
"We do our prayers together. Some days she's on top of things. Some days she struggles to find the pages," says Sam.
Joyce joined a clinical trial studying immune globulin (IGIV). It's been used for 20 years to treat a variety of auto-immune diseases. It targets the plaques in the brain of Alzheimer's patients, the chief culprit of memory loss.
"What we are looking and hoping for is to slow rate of decline or a slow rate of decline or stop rate of decline," said Brigid Reynolds, Clinical Coordinator for the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown University Hospital.
Patients get an infusion every two weeks for 18 months. If it works, the treatment would need to continue for the rest of their lives. Joyce believes it's helping her.
"That's the most we can really hope for. It will slow the progress of the disease," said Joyce.
A Phase Two trial revealed reduced rates of brain shrinkage in patients who received IGIV treatment. Phase Three trials are under way and patients are being recruited. The nearest site for these is Portland.
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