By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s been a major breakthrough for people living with ALS.

For the first time in 22 years, the FDA approved a drug specifically for the disease. Although it’s not a cure, doctors say it’s a step in the right direction for treatment and research.

The drug is giving hope to thousands patients all over the country, including in Minnesota. It’s the breakthrough people living with ALS have been waiting for.

Clay Ahrens was diagnosed with the ALS over three years ago.

“I am very, very excited about this new approval,” he said. “This is the most exciting and optimistic news we’ve had in a long long time in ALS.”

Ahrens has hope in a new drug called Radicava. It’s been 22 years since the F-D-A approved a drug treatment for ALS. The disease affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Life expectancy after diagnosis is between two and five years.

“ALS is truly a disease that takes away power, the power to move, it’s a disease of loss, every day is a little bit worse than the day before.”

People living with ALS eventually lose muscle control. Research found Radicava slowed that muscle decline by 33 percent in people who were recently diagnosed with ALS.

Ahrens isn’t sure the drug will work for him, but he’d like to find out.

“I have my next clinic appointment in three weeks and that is topic one, two and three,” he said. “This is how we will make progress — it is by drugs that will slow the progression down.”

There are still questions about the treatment, and concerns whether it will be affordable, but its approval is a light in the dark for those suffering from ALS.

“This really does offer hope for a condition that otherwise has very little good news attached to it,” Ahrens said.

The ALS Association says money raised from the ‘ice bucket challenge’ helped create a guidance document for the FDA. The association believes that document helped speed up the approval process. Without it, the non-profit says Radicava could have been on hold for another 5 to 6 years.

Radicava is expected to hit the market in August.

Jennifer Mayerle

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