INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Almost 20 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. That number could grow by 20 percent by 2025.
It’s a disease that could affect all functions, including breathing and swallowing, which is what makes it deadly. But, Eli Lilly is working on a new treatment that could significantly help.
Many drugs on the market now are more than 15 years old. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved a new one in more than a decade. Eli Lilly has been working on a new medication that, if successful, would slow the effects of the disease and improve the overall quality of life.
Bill Kieffer loves to perform for the seniors at Still Waters Adult Day Center.
“We start singing old time songs and playing old time music. They get right back to their youth. It’s a time machine. It’s really neat,” said Kieffer.
His wife Paula sits in the back row, and sings along. It’s Paula, who inspired Bill to volunteer his time working with the elderly. Two years ago, Paula’s memory began slipping.
“You went to your son’s house one day and you came back and it was like,’How was Mike?’ ‘I never got there. I just drove around,'” said Kieffer.
Paula added, “It was very hard and since I didn’t remember, I turned around and came back home.”
Doctors diagnosed Paula with the early stages of Alzheimer’s a year ago. Each day, she takes four pills and an aspirin. The goal is to keep the disease from progressing.
Kelly Litster from the Alzheimer’s Association says the disease is so much more than just memory loss. It’s an ailment that can lead to death.
In 2014, more than 100,000 Hoosiers were diagnosed with the disease. It was the 6th leading cause of death in Indiana in 2012, killing more than 2,000.
“Someone’s brain with Alzheimer’s Disease is actually shrinking. A health person’s brain at the time of death is about 3 pounds and at the time of death someone with Alzheimer’s Disease brain is about a pound and a half,” said Litster.
But a new drug called Solanezumab could benefit those with mild cases. Although it’s not expected to cure the disease it does offer hope.
“If you can stabilize it and we won’t let it progress or slow down the progression, very hopeful. Very, very hopeful,” said Kieffer.
The new medication is a result of an ongoing study from 2012. It is still in the research process, and if approved by the FDA, it would not be available for at least another two years.