Happy Friday to cap off what’s been for many of us, a short week. Five days in and my resolutions are still going strong, only had to make one adjustment. A cold shower first thing in the morning is, mildly put, extremely unpleasant. So instead of jumping into a cold shower, I jump into a warm one and turn it to ~titanically~ cold temperatures (literally) for just the last few minutes.
Call me what you want, but unless you’re doing a polar plunge every morning you have no room to talk
Let’s Talk Drugs
Everyone knows that there are bad drugs and there are good drugs.
Bad drug? Heroin.
Good drug? Your love (Enter the Ke$ha lyrics here)
But now, there could also be a new drug that enhances memory. Not Adderall or Vyvanse, but Aduhelm, Biogen’s new drug to combat Alzheimer’s. The drug has been shown to reduce cognitive decline for the nearly 7 million people affected by the disease, which could help people remember the faces of loved ones longer.
How does it work?
The brain contains tens of billions of neurons that all communicate with each other. And Alzheimer’s is a disease that basically disrupts this communication/function, leading to cell death like this.
Need a real-life example? Here ya go:
No more big brain, your brain shrinks which is why we see loss of memory and many other functions. And one of the main contributors to this loss of neurons is buildup of Amyloid plaque (think of this as a road block) which collects between neurons preventing communication/function, and which is exactly what Aduhelm targets.
So how does Aduhelm work? Essentially it clears these roadblocks (Amyloid plaques) and keeps the neurons working properly. No roadblocks = neuron retention.
If none of that made sense, just check out this video.
Why are you bringing this up now?
Aduhelm is one of the first dementia drugs to slow cognitive decline. It was approved for clinical trials by the FDA in July under the accelerated approval pathway, but the FDA is supposed to make a final decision this week. Grant the approval and open the drug to the market or deny it.
The benefits seem clear, the drug has worked to slow cognitive decline for Alzheimer’s patients and the Alzheimer’s Association has voiced support.
So why wouldn’t the FDA approve it? Well, as with any drug there are side effects. You know, the ones they read at the speed of light in the end of the commercial. In this case, those include stroke, brain bleeding, and brain swelling. It makes sense that the side effects may be more severe since Aduhelm targets the brain, but they’re happening at a much higher incidence rate than other drugs, nearly 3%.
This means if the drug is given to the 7 million people who have Alzheimers, that roughly 200,000 of them are going to experience these side effects.
So due to that fact this drug is also the source of a lot of scrutiny with some groups calling out the FDA and Biogen.
Not to mention the drug is expensive, costing $56k per year!
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Safe to say, you should expect to hear more about this in the next week or so. It seems to be a source of contention and I am sure there will be chatter from both sides, regardless of the FDA’s decision.
For me, I’ve always found the intersection of business and healthcare interesting, which is why I’ve written about it so many times. I mean, on one side you want to do the best for the patients you are serving with your drug, medical device, etc., but you also want to make money. These contrasting motives can really complicate things and serve as a conflict of interest for many companies, so watching them try to thread the needle is fascinating.
Not to mention the politicking that goes on between these big healthcare companies (think big pharma) and government agencies like the FDA. All this just creates a big, complicated, and entangled web.
We’ve seen similar cases with the advances in CRISPR, a gene editing technology that could be useful in treating cancer, when the stock price of NTLA shot up over 100% before investors found out there were still years of development and regulation that needed to take place. (Lucky for me, I finally got the timing right, and bought low/sold high on this one.)
Anyways, I think this interplay will only continue to expand and I look forward to seeing it play out.
While we’re on the topic of drugs, you know what’s not as complicated? Dealing drugs, so go check out my post about the pros and cons of being a drug dealer here.
Let’s have ourselves a weekend.