It is easy to understand why everyone is desperate for anything that will help with Alzheimer’s Disease. Patients and their families dread its relentless onslaught. Consequently, there was tremendous pressure for the FDA to approve Aduhelm (aducanumab), by Biogen and Eisai.
However, it’s approval was met with widespread criticism because it is both expensive, with an expected annual price tag of $56,000, but of limited effectiveness.
Aducanumab is taken as an infusion administered in a doctor’s office for one hour every four weeks. That might be difficult for a patients suffering from agitation who might not understand why they are there.
The high cost of Biogen’s newly approved and controversial treatment will be compounded by a misguided Medicare policy that incentivizes doctors to prescribe the priciest medicines.
Given the level of disagreement among experts, we can only wonder about the process. What is the appropriate role for the FDA?
Of course the FDA – like every government agency – has been subverted to support the Drug War
However, the situation is only marginally better in the UK. The British Alzheimer’s association does say, “Research does suggest that high concentrations of CBD oil could be useful for managing some of the symptoms of dementia such as agitation and anxiety.”
But they also acknowledged that the “Alzheimer’s Society has never funded research into cannabis and dementia risk, or into cannabis as a potential treatment for dementia symptoms… This is because we have not received any high-quality applications from researchers intending to investigate these issues.”
The obvious question is “Why?” Why has the medical establishment failed to support research on cannabinoid medicine when clearly nothing else has worked?
Also, cannabinoid medicines are of low toxicity. However, “Patients taking aducanumab have experienced swelling and bleeding in the brain, a side effect called “amyloid-related imaging abnormalities” (ARIA). Headache, balance problems leading to falls, stomach issues including diarrhea, and disorientation are also possible side effects.
The swelling or bleeding that comes from ARIA can be monitored via brain scans for people taking aducanumab. The drugmaker recommends MRI scans that detect ARIA before the 7th and 12th infusions, as the problems typically develop in the first 12 to 16 weeks of treatment and are asymptomatic (meaning a person can’t feel them happening). During trials, ARIA was detected in 41% of people taking aducanumab, compared to 10% of those in the control group who did not take the drug.
Maybe medical cannabis could at least help with the side effects of the FDA-approved pharmaceutical. Ending marijuana prohibition might also help with the other problems associated with aging, like extreme cynicism from having been lied to all our lives.
**Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of Study About Cannabidiol’s Impact On The Liver Of Adults.**