The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland says they're "cautiously optimistic" about a new drug for the disease.
They say it's not a "wonder drug" but could herald in a new range of treatments and more research.
US regulators the FDA yesterday approved the new drug aducanumab - developed by Biogen - for use.
While previous Alzheimer's drugs have treated symptoms of the disease, this new medicine is said to be the "first therapy to target and affect the underlying disease process of Alzheimer’s".
It works to combat amyloid beta plaque in the brain, as the plaque's presence is said to be a hallmark of Alzheimer's.
Nonetheless, there's continued uncertainty around whether the drug is effective - with some leading scientists saying there's not enough evidence to prove its efficacy yet.
While granting approval for the drug's use based on existing data, the FDA has also ordered Biogen to carry out a new, fourth trial to "verify the drug's clinical benefit".
Despite that uncertainty, Pat McLoughlin - CEO of Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland - told The Hard Shoulder the FDA's approval of the drug is an "important day".
He said: "[It's] the first licence of a new drug for Alzheimer’s disease in a generation… almost 20 years.
“The treatments to date have dealt with symptoms. The importance of this one is it’s a disease-modifying therapy, which should act to slow the progression of dimension.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that it might herald in a new range of treatments, and a lot more research on these types of treatment."
Mr McLoughlin said it's understandable that many people are hopeful following the news, but stressed that his society wouldn’t describe the treatment as a "wonder drug".
He explained: “We’ve been saying the benefits are modest, and will really only apply to a limited group of patients who have mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia.
“We’re taking a view we’re hopeful and cautiously optimistic… but we’re playing down that this is a wonder drug or a cure.”
Approval for the drug's use in the EU is expected to take some time - with Mr McLoughlin saying they're not expecting it to be licensed in Europe until 2022.
However, he said planning needs to start now to prepare for the drug potentially getting the green light for use in Ireland.
He observed: “Most of the patients who might benefit from this… they will need tests [first].
"People with dementia are well down the queue in terms of accessing those imagery services at the moment.”