On Thursday, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist treated a patient with a potentially groundbreaking medication for Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Winston-Salem-based health system, it’s the first in the region to do so.

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that impacts memory, and it is a progressive disease that worsens over the years. One contributor is believed to be an accumulation of proteins found in the brain that stick together, form clumps and eventually become plaques. The new medication lecanemab has been shown to slow the progression of the disease by removing that protein.

The drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year.

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Memory Assessment and Support Clinic Director Dr. Jo Cleveland says that the medication is useful only in the very early stage of the disease process, calling it "the beginning of better ways to treat Alzheimer’s."

The current treatment involves a half-day intravenous infusion, twice a month.

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