Tag: Alzheimer’s disease
I recently blogged about Biogen Inc. and the drug in development that is said to be the first treatment that could show decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Since I wrote about this in November, 2020, Biogen has continued working towards the coveted regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Despite a panel of experts at the FDA voting against the drug in November, 2020, the FDA has extended the review period of the drug by three months. For reference, the panel voted “no” to three questions related to whether a single successful large trial of the drug was sufficient evidence of the drug’s effectiveness, given the clear failure of a second large study.
Although the FDA is not obligated to follow the recommendations of the panel, it usually does.
Notwithstanding the FDA’s history of following the panel’s recommendations, this extension raised some hopes that the drug may still be approved which reflected in an increase of Biogen’s shares by 8% premarket.
Obtaining regulatory approval would certainly be of benefit to the shareholders of Biogen. However, if the drug is actually effective, it would certainly change the lives of many people afflicted with Alzheimer’s today.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Thanks for reading.
Find this blog interesting? Please consider these other related posts:
It is generally understood that, in order to execute a valid Last Will and Testament, a testator must meet the legal test for capacity. Drafting solicitors must remain especially vigilant when preparing a Will for an elderly client.
On October 16, 2013, we blogged on the correlation found between oversleeping and mental incapacity. Though the cause for the correlation was unknown, studies conducted by Columbia University and Hospital University of Madrid concluded that those who regularly oversleep might be more likely to develop Dementia. “Oversleeping” was classified as sleeping for nine or more hours every night.
Researchers funded by the National Institute of Health have found evidence that the reverse is also true when it comes to sleep: those already suffering from progressive neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, may experience more severe symptoms and a quicker decline as a result of chronic lack of sleep. Sleep patterns can affect cognitive ability and, in turn, the ability to execute a Will. These findings negate some cultural beliefs that “sleep is for the weak” and instead suggest that sleep is more important than we might want to believe.
Just as we cleanse our physical bodies at the end of each day, the brain also undergoes a process to cleanse itself of its “waste,” otherwise known as amyloid plaques. This detoxification process occurs while we are sleeping. Amyloid plaques are produced throughout the day and, like any other plaque that is built up, they can cause harm to our bodies when not properly removed. Amyloid plaques, specifically, have been linked to brain functioning and associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Without a proper night’s sleep, our brains are unable to eliminate these damaging toxins and thus cannot maintain optimal functioning.
Given the compelling evidence linking sleep patterns to possible cognitive decline, if you wish to remain capable of executing a Will, the importance of a good night’s rest cannot be overstated.
Thanks for reading! Have a great day!
Suzana Popovic-Montag and Tori Joseph
In estate litigation, we often hear about Alzheimer’s and how it can affect the daily lives of so many Canadians. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s at this time, other than medication that can be taken to (hopefully) slow its effects and prolong one’s quality of life.
Interestingly, Biogen Inc. has been working on what has been labelled a “controversial” new drug called “Aducanumab”. The controversy is, first of all, the rather bumpy ride this new drug has had with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the regulatory approval that this treatment needs in order to be made available to consumers.
According to Biogen, if this drug receives regulatory approval, it will become the first treatment to slow decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The problem is that to date, it is not clear as to whether there is “substantial” evidence of effectiveness which is what is required in order to gain the coveted regulatory approval that allows the drug on the market.
A recent update is not positive for Biogen as an independent advisory committee to the FDA found that the clinical data does not show the drug to be effective for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
I am sure this is not the outcome desired by Biogen strictly from a financial perspective but it is certainly not a positive outcome for the many people affected by Alzheimer’s today.
Here is to hoping that if this treatment does not prove to be successful, that another one becomes available soon.
To learn more about recent updates on Biogen Inc. here is an article from November 10, 2020.
Thanks for reading!
Find this blogs interesting? Please consider these other related posts:
Sir Terry Pratchett was a noted author and activist. His genre was fantasy, and more than 85 million copies of his books have been sold. He was most noted for his Discworld series of 41 novels.
Sir Terry Pratchett died on March 12, 2015 at the age of 66 as a result of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (which he referred to as an “embuggerance”). Prior to his death, he was a vocal supporter of Alzheimer’s research and assisted suicide.
Pratchett left a significant number of unfinished works upon his death. These works will never be enjoyed. Pratchett’s daughter, the custodian of the Discworld franchise, has stated that these works will never be published.
More definitively, Pratchett told his friend and collaborator, Neil Gaiman, that he wanted whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be destroyed. More specifically, he asked that his works and computers be put in the middle of the road and run over by a steamroller.
This wish was fulfilled on August 25, 2017. His hard drive was crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co. steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. The destroyed hard drive was put on display at The Salisbury Museum
Presumably, the destruction was agreed to by his estate trustees. Otherwise, the works would fall into his estate to be dealt with as assets of the estate.
The wishes of authors with respect to their posthumous works are not always fulfilled. Notably, Franz Kafka asked his friend and literary executor Max Brod to destroy all of his works after he died. Brod ignored this request, and as a result, some of Kafka’s most famous works, The Trial, The Castle, Amerika and The Metamorphosis were published after his death. In an essay by Scott McLemee, it is noted that Kafka was a lawyer, and must have known that his intentions set out in a couple of notes would not be binding on his estate trustee.
Thanks for reading.
Canada, as most people will know, has an aging population and the issue of dementia has become more and more prevalent over the years, as it affects the ability of those afflicted, to live and function independently.
A strategy to address this problem is important given the statistics, however, another interesting aspect of this live issue is the work being done to develop a means of preventing and minimizing the impact of this disease on people in the future.
Dr. Rosanna Olsen is the leader and director of the Olsen Lab and a scientist at the Rotman Research Institute (RRI) at Baycrest as well as an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Olsen noted that early detection of dementia is important for effective treatment of the disease. Given that no test can currently detect dementia before the onset of symptoms, Dr. Olsen has undertaken research that will help in the development of non-invasive and cost-effective eye-tracking tests that will identify those at risk of dementia before the onset of the symptoms.
Dr. Olsen will receive $546,975.00 over five years for her work in establishing a set of new eye-tracking and brain-imaging biomarkers that will assist in the earlier detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
I, for one, am very interested in seeing the results of this study and how they may impact the detection of Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
Thanks for reading!
Find this blog interesting? Please consider these other related posts:
We’ve blogged quite a bit recently on the various technologies and breakthroughs that are being made in Alzheimer’s, including the use of Artificial Intelligence in detecting early signs of the disease and research on new treatment methods. As anyone who has worked with affected individuals and their caregivers can attest, Alzheimer’s and dementia are extremely challenging and will increasingly affect more families. It’s no surprise then that researchers and governments are taking steps to address Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Last month, the Canadian Federal government announced its comprehensive dementia strategy (for news coverage, see this CBC article). The release of the strategy comes on the heels of the passage of the National Strategy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Act in 2017 which allowed the government to take steps to begin developing a national dementia strategy.
The strategy aims to broaden awareness of dementia and advance the following “national objectives”:
- Prevent dementia by advancing research and expanding awareness of and support in adopting lifestyle measures that can increase the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia;
- Advance therapies and find a cure by supporting and implementing research; and
- Improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and caregivers by eliminating stigma, promoting early diagnosis and care, and better supporting caregivers.
As part of the national strategy, the Federal budget (released on March 19, 2019) allocated $50 million over five years towards implementing the dementia strategy. The release of the national strategy and funding to address this issue has been welcome news to organizations in Canada dedicated to tackling Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Hopefully, the release of this strategy will promote the continued advancement of breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s and dementia research.
Thanks for reading!
My colleague, Garrett Horrocks, recently blogged on a promising breakthrough in research relating to the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The research focused on the use of artificial intelligence to assist in the early detection of the disease.
Last week, I came across an interesting article that discusses a promising breakthrough in the United States in treatment for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative diseases. The fact that treatment options continue to be explored by the science, engineering and medical community is hopeful, in light of last year’s announcement by the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, that it is pulling out of research into Alzheimer’s disease.
The treatment consists of implanting a “pacemaker” into the part of the brain responsible for executive and cognitive functions, such as planning, problem solving and judgment. The article explains that a battery pack is then placed in the chest, which sends electrical currents through the wires in a process called “deep brain stimulation” or DBS.
Studies on the use of the implant have shown that the subject patients’ cognitive and daily functional abilities as a whole declined much more slowly than Alzheimer’s patients in a matched comparison group who were not being treated with DBS.
The article highlights one study participant, Ms. Moore, who, prior to receiving the implant, was unable to cook meals or dress herself without assistance. According to the article, Ms. Moore was very fearful that her disease would take away her ability to play hymns on the piano, however, after two years of receiving DBS, she is still able to continue playing the piano and can now cook meals, select outfits and plan outings independently.
My colleague, Garrett, has pointed out in his recent blog that there could be many ways in which the use of artificial intelligence in the early detection of Alzheimer’s could impact succession and estate planning, such as a predictive diagnosis prompting a testator to take steps to implement an estate plan prior to the loss of capacity.
There is no global definition of capacity, and there are varying degrees of capacity that attract different legal tests. Capacity is decision, time and situation specific, such that a person may have capacity to do certain things, but not others, at different times and under different circumstances.
While the full impact of the use of the implant and DBS in treating Alzheimer’s is not yet clear, should the treatment continue with its successes, it may be possible that people living with Alzheimer’s who do not have testamentary capacity today, may have testamentary capacity sometime in the future.
Thanks for reading!
A recent study published by the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California at San Francisco represents a promising breakthrough in research relating to early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. At the core of the study, however, is a familiar yet unlikely trend: artificial intelligence.
The research team developed an algorithm to read and interpret PET scan images with a particular emphasis on monitoring and detecting changes in glucose uptake over extended periods of time. Glucose monitoring has historically been an important predictive factor in formulating a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Healthy cells generally display high levels of glucose uptake, indicative of robust cell activity. Conversely, lower glucose uptake suggests cell inactivity or death, for example, as a result of Alzheimer’s.
The slow, progressive nature of Alzheimer’s has historically rendered it difficult for radiologists to observe the subtle changes in glucose levels until symptoms had reached a stage at which they were no longer meaningfully reversible. The team at UCSF tailored the algorithm to detect subtle features that were imperceptible to the human eye.
To achieve this, the algorithm was fed thousands of PET scan images from thousands of patients at all stages of cognitive impairment, from no impairment through to late-stage Alzheimer’s. Over time, the algorithm learned to discern between the particular features of a given scan which were of assistance in predicting the eventual onset of Alzheimer’s and those which were not. At the conclusion of the study, the algorithm had correctly predicted the onset of Alzheimer’s in more than 92% of cases. Importantly, the algorithm was able to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s, on average, more than six years before the symptoms constituting a typical diagnosis had manifested.
Leaving aside the obvious benefits relating to treatment and reversibility, early detection of Alzheimer’s could stand to have numerous applications in the context of succession and estate planning. For example, a predictive diagnosis could spur a testator to take steps to implement a proper estate plan well before his or her capacity to do so could become a concern. In turn, the testator would have the security that their plan of succession would be carried out according to his or her instructions, reducing the risk of contentious post-death litigation.
Thanks for reading.
Please feel free to check out the following blogs on related topics:
This September marks the fifth annual World Alzheimer’s Month. World Alzheimer’s Month and World Alzheimer’s Day, which took place on Wednesday, are part of a campaign to increase awareness of dementia and related misconceptions.
In honour of World Alzheimer’s Day, Global News posted an article outlining five common misconceptions about dementia. They focused on the following:
- “Misconception: A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia means my life is over.” Individuals can continue to live and function normally for years despite a diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease.
- “Misconception: Dementia is a disease of the elderly.” Although the likelihood of developing dementia and other memory issues may increase with age, early-onset dementia can affect individuals in their 40s or 50s. In Canada, approximately 16 thousand of those living with dementia are under the age of 65.
- “Misconception: There’s nothing I can do to prevent or stave off dementia.” Research suggests that there are ways to limit the risks of developing dementia, such as an active and social lifestyle and a healthy diet.
- “Misconception: Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are all about memory loss.” Dementia goes deeper than memory loss and this misconception may trivialize the disease.
- “Misconception: One of my parents had Alzheimer’s disease, so I’m going to get it, too.” The most common forms of dementia do not appear to be genetically inherited, so the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is only loosely connected to family history of the disease.
Have a great weekend.
A recent fact sheet published by the World Health Organization indicates that worldwide there are approximately 47.5 million people living with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for approximately 70% of these cases.
Of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, approximately 60% have a tendency to wander. This places these individuals at increased risk of serious injury and can cause significant stress for their families and caregivers.
Inspired by his own grandfather’s battle with the Alzheimer’s, a New York City teen, Kenneth Shinozuka, has invented a wearable sensor called SafeWander that will immediately trigger an alarm on a cell phone when a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s is on the move.
The sensor comes in the form of a small button, which can be attached to the patients clothing, and has the ability to detect movement, for example, when a patient sits up in bed. This is particularly useful for those caring for a loved one who has a tendency to wander out of bed at night.
Shinozuka’s invention will no doubt create peace of mind for caregivers and help keep loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s safe.
A short video which explains how the technology works and Shinozuka’s inspiration for its creation can be viewed here.
Thank you for reading.