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FDA Approves New Treatment Made Possible by the Ice Bucket Challenge

In the summer of 2014, millions of us took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Celebrities, friends and family members all dumped ice on their heads to help raise awareness and funds for ALS. Thanks to everyone who donated, new ALS genes were discovered, new global research projects were funded and care services were expanded to help more people with ALS.  

One of the potential treatments that the ALS Association funded was AMX0035, which was first imagined by two Brown University students in a dorm room the year before the Ice Bucket Challenge.  

The ALS Association spent over $2 million helping fund the development and clinical trial of AMX0035. When the results of that trial showed it was safe and effective in treating ALS, the ALS Association led an advocacy campaign to push the FDA to approve the drug. After two years of advocacy, the FDA finally approved AMX0035. 

“This is a victory for the entire ALS community, which came together to advocate for early approval of AMX0035. We still have a lot of work to do to cure ALS, but this new treatment is a significant step in that fight,” ALS Association President and CEO Calaneet Balas said in a statement.  

In September of 2020, The ALS Association and I AM ALS submitted over 50,000 signatures to the FDA calling on the agency to approve AMX0035. In subsequent months, the Association held multiple meetings with FDA officials, including a public We Can’t Wait Action Meeting in May of 2021, so members of the ALS community could speak directly to FDA officials. The Association also provided scientific and regulatory guidance and in 2022, drove over 14,000 individual emails to the FDA urging approval. 

Steve Kowalski, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, testified twice before the FDA’s advisory committee pleading for quick approval.  

“This is a positive step forward on that path to making ALS a livable disease until we find a cure. It means the possibility of increasing precious time with friends and family, greater independence and improving the quality of life for people living with ALS today,” he said of the decision.  

Sunny Brous, a dedicated advocate for swift approval of safe and effective treatments, also celebrated the approval of AMX0035.  

“When I took the Ice Bucket Challenge, I never imagined I would be diagnosed with ALS a few months later at the age of 27. Approval of AMX0035 is a shared victory for everyone living with ALS, and a tribute to those we’ve lost. We can agree this disease is different for everyone and approval means a new line of defense while moving us one step closer to making ALS a livable disease,” she said. 

Before AMX0035 will be made available, payers like Medicare and private insurance companies have to make determinations on whether and how they will cover the drug.  

For more on how insurance coverage decisions are made, listen to this discussion on Connecting ALS.

This is a hugely meaningful win for the community. Getting effective new drugs approved and made available as quickly as possible is key to making ALS a livable disease. Thanks to everyone who worked tirelessly to make this happen, and to everyone who took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. 

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