FDA Approves New Treatment for ALS

May 06, 2017 11:12 AM

The Food and Drug Administration approved a new treatment Friday for people living with the paralyzing disease ALS, making it the first new drug approved for the disease in 22 years. 

Experts have said the new drug, called Radicava, can slow the decline of physical function in ALS patients by 33 percent, and it has been proven to be effective in other countries like South Korea and Japan. 

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ALS, which is sometimes known as Lou Gehrig's disease, gradually affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing people to lose control of their muscle movement. As many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease, according to the ALS association. 

Jack Lee is one of those people. But his support team, Jack's Pals, isn't backing down.

"He got us together and said he wanted it to be the biggest team ever," said Julie Burroughs, a member of Jack's Pals. 

In fact, this year Jack's Pals smashed its fundraising record, bringing in nearly $70,000. 

"He has this incredible sparkle in his eyes and this huge smile, and you can still see how much this has meant for him and his family," Burroughs said. 

Paralysis and death are common within two to five years of an ALS diagnosis.

Coincidentally, members of the local ALS Association chapter had organized a "superhero dash" 5K Saturday morning in St. Paul to support the organization. People at the event were able to celebrate what they hope is a new chapter in ALS treatment. 

"The hope this is bringing to our ALS community, it is fantastic," said Jennifer Hjelle, executive director of the ALS Association's regional chapter.

The new drug is not a cure, but the association had said it is still an important advancement. In fact, according to the ALS Association, the drug Radicava has been used to treat ALS in other countries since 2015. Since then, the drug is reported to reduce paralysis in ALS patients by 33 percent.

"It is pretty rare, and we're hoping this is just the tip of the iceberg," Hjelle said. "It is exciting ... it takes a whole heck of lot of heroes to fight this disease, and that's why we're out here today - to do just that," Hjelle said. 

According to the local ALS Association chapter, their goal was to raise $68,000. So far, they're at $117,000. If you'd like to donate, visit http://webmn.alsa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=MN_homepage. 

Credits

Andrew Heiser, Brett Hoffland

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