Vermont family sings praises of controversial new treatment for Alzheimer’s

Local News

A Burlington family has some insight on Aducanumab, a drug approved this week by the Federal Drug Administration for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

Tom Sullivan has been taking, aducanumab, also known as also known as aduhelm, since participating in a trial at Yale in 2016, the year he was diagnosed. 

“The minute I was diagnosed I never felt that different in a lot of ways,” Tom Sullivan said. 

It’s first new drug for Alzheimer’s disease in nearly 20 years. Approval was granted despite warnings from independent advisers that the treatment hasn’t been shown to help slow the brain-destroying disease.

But Kate Sullivan, Tom’s spouse, said the family is grateful it was made available. “We’re so grateful that Tom is at that ‘steady’ label because of the aducanumab, because that is a long time where there could’ve been a good deal of deterioration, and there wasn’t,” she said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association more than six million Americans live with the disease, and 66% of those people are women. 

“Women tend to me more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. John Steele Taylor, neurologist at UVM Medical Center said. “Maybe there is some sort of aging survival bias built in there.” 

Taylor said the study Tom Sullivan is enrolled in showed the new drug did not reverse mental decline, but slowed it. “The aducanumab is propertied to modify the underlying disease,” he said. 

Jim Wessler, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association’s New England chapters, said about 13,000 people in Vermont have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 

“And just in the next five years that will increase to 17,000,” Wessler said. “That is assuming we had no disease modifying treatments, so perhaps we will start bending that curve.”

The Sullivans are filled with joy knowing Tom is seeing positive results. 

“If Tom wasn’t on the medication, he might not even recognize those kids, me, our son or grandchildren,” Kate Sullivan said.

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