BROOMFIELD, Colo.— There is hope on the horizon for people diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease.
The FDA just fully approved a drug called Lecanemab. It's a first-of-its-kind drug that can slow cognitive decline in people in early-stages of the disease.
Broomfield resident Rebecca Chopp is hopeful.
“As my husband and I looked back, it was clear. There had been signs,” Chopp said.
Chopp, 71, led a busy life as chancellor of the University of Denver. However, that busy life started to slow down when she noticed something wasn't right.
"I didn't want to go to social events, and as chancellor, I had a job where I would be out five or six nights a week,” Chopp said. “I found myself delegating more tasks. We both realized my short-term memory was really failing.”
Chopp was diagnosed in 2019 with mild cognitive impairment in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and retired from her job not long after finding out the news.
"I remember coming out of the doctor's office, and we just cried and cried and cried,” Chopp recalled.
Since that diagnosis, Chopp has made some lifestyle modifications in hopes to slow down the progression of the disease.
"More healthy diet, exercise, creativity, I took up painting,” she said.
It has helped, but she said her short-term memory is declining, and her reaction time has slowed. She's hopeful she'll get more time, now that the FDA granted full approval for Lecanemab on Thursday.
The drug has shown it can slow cognitive decline in people in early stages of the disease.
"It slows the cognitive decline by 27%,” said Jim Herlihy with the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado.
Herlihy said around 76,000 people in the state are living with Alzheimer’s so getting treated as soon as possible is crucial for patients.
“The reality is roughly 2,000 people every day are being aged out to use this medication, so time is of the essence,” Herlihy said.
Lecanemab can only be administered by infusion and it's something Chopp is going to ask her doctor about at her next appointment.
“There is now something I can take, and I am going to explore every option,” Chopp said.
Lecanemab will cost $26,500 a year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are working to figure out whether they will or will not cover, plus coverage qualifications.