FDA approves Alzheimer's drug

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a new medication for Alzheimer's disease. Aducanumab is the first new drug for the disease in 18 years.

US company Biogen and Japanese firm Eisai developed the drug. It targets plaques in the brain that researchers believe can affect cognition. Aducanumab is the first medication to tackle the disease process rather than just treating symptoms of dementia.

FDA regulators say clinical trials left them with some uncertainties regarding clinical benefits. They asked Biogen to conduct another trial. That process is expected to take years.

In the meantime, patients will be able to take the drug. Over 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease.

In Japan, more than 6 million people are estimated to have dementia, and 60 to 70 percent of them are believed to have Alzheimer's disease. The number of patients is expected to grow as the population ages.

Aducanumab was sent to the Japanese health ministry for approval in December last year.

Mori Yoshihiro is the leader of a group that supports people with early-onset dementia and their family members. He said, "Patients have been disappointed every time they receive information that the development of a new drug has been abandoned. So, we are very hopeful because the drug has been approved in the US as a treatment. I hope it will be approved in Japan soon."

The agency that examines new pharmaceuticals in Japan says it is usually able to send results to the health ministry within one year. The ministry then decides whether to approve the drug.