Health Check Podcast: Making sense of the controversy surrounding US-approved drug for Alzheimer’s disease

In this Health Check podcast about the controversial new US-approved drug for Alzheimer's disease, ST's Joyce Teo speaks with Professor Nagaendran Kandiah (pictured), a Senior Consultant and the director of the dementia programme at the National Neur
In this Health Check podcast about the controversial new US-approved drug for Alzheimer's disease, ST's Joyce Teo speaks with Professor Nagaendran Kandiah (pictured), a Senior Consultant and the director of the dementia programme at the National Neuroscience Institute.PHOTO: NATIONAL NEUROSCIENCE INSTITUTE
Biogen Inc.'s aducanumab was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration on June 7, 2021.
Biogen Inc.'s aducanumab was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration on June 7, 2021.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Health Check Ep 62: Making sense of the controversy surrounding US-approved drug for Alzheimer’s disease

19:27 mins

Synopsis: Every first and third Wednesday of the month, The Straits Times helps you make sense of health matters that affect you. 

There's a new drug in the United States that offers hope for patients facing the daunting prospect of not being able to remember their loved ones as their disease progresses. However, many experts are against the approval of this new drug for Alzheimer's disease.

In this episode, ST senior health correspondent Joyce Teo hosts Associate Professor Nagaendran Kandiah, a Senior Consultant and the director of the dementia programme at the National Neuroscience Institute, about the controversial drug known as Aducanumab.

Developed by US drug maker Biogen, Aducanumab is the first treatment for Alzheimer's disease to be approved in nearly 20 years and will be sold under the brand Aduhelm (it is currently not a registered product in Singapore).

It was approved even though the US Food and Drug Administration’s independent panel of experts had voted overwhelmingly against it. They said there is weak evidence that the drug can slow mental connectivity decline in patients. Three FDA advisers have resigned over this decision.

There's also the other group of people excited about having a drug that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Current treatments only target the symptoms of the disease.

The new drug Aducanumab works by removing a protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. This protein is called amyloid. In theory, clearing the brain of amyloid plaques may slow the progression of the disease but the clinical benefits aren’t clear. 

1. The controversy surrounding Aducanumab, the new drug for Alzheimer's disease and results from the trials (1:47)

2. Why was Aducanumab approved despite the inconclusive results (5:00)

3. Possible side effects of Aducanumab and identifying patients' eligibility for the new drug (11:48)

4. Signs and symptoms of MCI or memory loss issues to look out for (13:34)

5. Pro-active approach to reducing risks of memory loss (16:20)

Produced by: Joyce Teo (joyceteo@sph.com.sg) and Fa'izah Sani

Edited by: Penelope Lee and Fa'izah Sani

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