On Wednesday, three VCU Health patients will be the first in Virginia to receive a newly approved medication intended to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Radicava is an ALS-slowing medication that was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug was first administered to U.S. patients on Aug. 11 at a medical center near Buffalo, New York. It is the first new ALS-related drug to be available in the U.S. in more than 20 years.
“VCU has worked diligently to ensure this new medication will be available to our ALS patients throughout the commonwealth,” said Scott A. Vota, D.O., director of the Neuromuscular and ALS clinics at Virginia Commonwealth University.
ALS is a rare disease that attacks and kills the nerve cells that control voluntary muscles. The nerves lose the ability to activate specific muscles, which causes the muscles to become weak and leads to paralysis. ALS is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 12,000 to 15,000 Americans have ALS. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within three to five years from when the symptoms first appear.
Radicava is an intravenous infusion administered by a health care professional. The newly approved drug has been shown to slow decline of physical function by 33 percent and reduce stress in the body. It can be prescribed at any point of the disease.
“This breakthrough, albeit promising, encourages ALS centers like VCU to continue to work collaboratively until a cure is found,” Vota said.