Iowan among first to receive newly-approved Alzheimer’s treatment

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 8:07 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) - An Iowa man is one of the first in the U.S. to receive what some hope could be a life-changing treatment for Alzheimer’s patients.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Aduhelm in June. It’s not a cure, but believed to be a way to extend quality of life for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Mike Zuendel is an early-stage Alzheimer’s patient who lives in Des Moines. He was diagnosed last year at the age of 66, after noticing minor symptoms, such as short-term memory loss. Last week, he became one of the first in the country to get this newly approved treatment at a facility in Arizona.

Zuendel said both of his parents passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. His daughters, who were with him during his treatment, each carry one gene of the disease. He said he was hesitant to get diagnosed, adding that when we think of Alzheimer’s, we think of late-stage and severe memory loss. Zuendel wants to remove that stigma, and encourages others to be aware of any symptoms and get answers.

Zuendel said this treatment is a way for those recently diagnosed to live a better life, longer.

“The world has changed, and there is hope. I’d like to be the example of someone who has early-stage Alzheimer’s but still functions quite normally,” Zuendel said.

During his treatment, he said the experience was almost indescribable.

“It was a huge relief, that I was finally, maybe, on my way to fighting the battle against Alzheimer’s. I also had a feeling, an enormous feeling of gratitude. I had an enormous feeling of hope,” Zuendel said. “And I also had a bit of sorrow and pain, that this medication has taken so long to develop that it was not available for my mother and father.”

Zuendel will get monthly infusions for at least a year based on progress. He said this treatment is still cost-prohibitive, which has been one of the criticisms of Aduhelm. It can cost upwards of $50,000 a year. The Alzheimer’s Association says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are doing a coverage analysis and will decide next spring if it will be covered. The organization is also working with private payer insurance.

There are also concerns in the medical community on if it works. But Zuendel says it gives him hope for himself, other patients and his family.

The Alzheimer’s Association says research made this treatment possible, which is funded through events around the country. The organization will hold its Cedar Rapids Walk this year on October 23.

Copyright 2021 KCRG. All rights reserved.