New pill could help Alzheimer's patients

PHOENIX - It was just last week that the world said goodbye to the Rhinestone Cowboy. Country music star Glen Campbell passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. For the millions of Americans with the same diagnosis, there's not much the medical world can do to help, but there's a new drug being tested right now that could change lives.

On a Thursday afternoon, Doctor William Burke is making his rounds at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix. One of his patients is Diane Scheel. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2012.

"It was really hard on me," says Scheel. She's 61. She's already stopped driving and even had to give up being a dental hygienist - a career she had for 30 years.

"I was always active and everything like that and I never would have thought in a million years that I would have it - but it was there."

The fact is, there are five million Americans right now living with Alzheimer's. About 130,000 are right here in Arizona. This year the disease will cost the nation $259 billion. By 2050 the cost will go up to $1.1 trillion according to the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Right now there are two FDA-approved drugs that help control the disease. You take them at the same time. Banner is testing a third pill to see if it will help those other drugs work better.

"It has been a decade since there's been anything new approved so this would be the third medication," said Dr. Burke.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, since 2000, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 14 percent while deaths from Alzheimer's have increased by 89 percent.

Scheel is on the clinical trial and is hoping the new drug will work for her and everyone else battling the same thing. "I'm stronger than I thought I was," said Scheel. "But it was hard because there was a lot of tears - but I think I can handle it."

Interested people and caregivers interested in participating in the SUVN-502 study can contact Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix by calling 602-839-4894, or Banner Sun Health in Sun City at 623-832-6530.

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