What a Year It Has Been

There is no doubt, 2020 will be a year not soon forgotten. We all have had our lives turned upside down in ways big and small, and we are all hoping for 2021 to turn things right-side up.

And while 2020 has been for many a year we’d be fine forgetting, there has been much worth remembering for our Chapter and the ALS community. For while 2020 has been a struggle, we are inspired by those who have struggled to overcome the obstacles in the path. And we are reminded that for people with ALS the struggle never ends. ALS does not stop for global pandemics, or for the challenges created by them.

Like so many others, when the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, our Chapter was forced to reimagine how to provide services to the community we serve. Our Care Service team worked with our partners to find new and different ways to meet the needs of people with ALS. Visits that would normally have been in person now took place over the phone or internet. Here on ALS Connect, we tried to keep you informed about how we and others in our community we meeting these challenges each and every day.

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More Encouraging News about AMX0035—And Still time to Sign the Petition to Make this Promising Treatment Available as Quickly as Possible

In September, we shared with you the exciting news that AMX0035, a trial ALS treatment drug developed by Amylyx Pharmaceuticals that had just completed the phase 2 trial, showed a statistically significant benefit to people living with ALS. This promising news lead The ALS Association and I AM ALS to launch a petition asking the FDA and Amylyx to work together to make AMX0035 available to the ALS community as soon as possible.

And while the news of a possible significant benefit to people living with ALS has created much optimism in the ALS community, the story doesn’t end there. All patients who completed the Phase 2 study were eligible to enroll in an “open label extension” (OLE) study to receive AMX0035 with no placebo comparator for up to an additional 30 months. Out of the 98 participants who were eligible for OLE enrollment, 92 percent (or 90 participants), opted to enter the OLE.

The primary goal of an OLE is to gather information about safety and tolerability of the new drug in long term, day to day use outside the trial environment, but they also can and do provide information on the effectiveness of the drug being tested. In this case, those findings make an even more compelling case for providing AMX0035 to the ALS community while Phase 3 trials take place, not after.

Continue reading More Encouraging News about AMX0035—And Still time to Sign the Petition to Make this Promising Treatment Available as Quickly as Possible

Bringing About Real Change Step-by-Step: What it Means to Be an ALS Advocate

With the 2020 election looming, it seems every other ad highlights a different elected official in either a positive or negative light. But when we look beyond the talking points that dominate our screens, we often find that elected officials at the federal, state, and local level are not only open to, but eager to hear the thoughts of the constituents they are elected by. By becoming an ALS advocate today, you can make your thoughts known to your elected leaders and advocate for changes in laws and regulations that affect thousands of people living with ALS and their families.

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ALS Virtual Town Hall Brings Community Together

In a lot of ways, the origins of the “town hall” meeting are uniquely American. Sure, community gatherings have been happening from the time there have been communities to gather, but since the early days of colonial America, the gathering of a group of concerned individuals to be updated on current events has been a time honored tradition that persists to this day across the country. The idea has become so much a part of us that we don’t think twice that “town hall” can easily refer as much to a meeting as it does to a building.

But just because the town hall concept is old doesn’t mean it has stayed the same, and in 2020 when nothing seems normal the concept has had to evolve even more. What might have in the past been in-person gatherings have become virtual, expanding the scope and reach even further. But the basic idea of gathering a community to be updated on current events remains.

In just such spirit, our Chapter hosted a virtual town hall meeting in September to discuss the current state of ALS care services, research, and advocacy. Members of our community were able to hear from experts in these areas and ask question to the speakers. The full 90 minute recording is available for all to view.

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New Drug Treatment Shows Significant Benefit for People with ALS

These days, it seems everything is “news.” Or at least there needs to be enough “news” to fill the 24 hour news channels, your Facebook and Twitter feeds, and who knows how many website devoted to covering the “news.”

But in a time when everything claims to be “news,” it can be hard to tell when something genuinely newsworthy occurs. When we really ought to break out the “Breaking News” banners and pay attention.

For the ALS community, just such an event took place earlier this month, when the New England Journal of Medicine published encouraging clinical trial results showing that Amylyx Pharmaceuticals’ AMX0035 brought statistically significant benefit to people living with ALS. The study showed that AMX0035 decreased the rate of decline in the Revised ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS-R). The trial included 137 people with ALS and was conducted across 25 top medical centers through the Northeast ALS (NEALS) consortium.

People with ALS who received AMX0035 performed 2 points better on the ALSFRS-R compared to those who received the placebo. This is a statistically significant result, and in the real world could mean the difference between a person with ALS being able to feed themselves versus being fed, or the difference between needing a wheelchair versus not needing one.

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We Can’t Wait

We are all tired. Some of us are tired of working from home. Some of us are tired of waiting to get to work again. We are tired of cooking and doing the dishes for what seems like the millionth time. We want our kids to go back to school. We want to hug our friends. We want things to feel normal again.

We keep thinking about “when this is over….”

But ALS has no respect for COVID-19. It is not waiting patiently on the sidelines while we deal with this new interloper. Every 90 minutes, someone is either diagnosed with ALS or dies from the disease. While we are waiting for things to go back to normal, a person with ALS must face the fact that their average life expectancy is 2 to 5 years, regardless of how long this other pandemic lasts.

All of this is why we can’t wait. We can’t wait to find new treatments. We can’t wait to find a cure.

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“This Is Where I Need to Be Right Now”—Virtual ALS Advocacy Day Still Makes an Impact on Congress

In the past, ALS Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill has been a frenetic affair. It almost has to be when groups of ALS Advocates from across the country descend on the Capitol with maps in hand, ready to weave the halls and go from meeting to meeting with Senators, Representatives, and staff to tell the story of people with ALS and how Congress can help. It is a fruitful, yet exhausting, day for all involved.

This year, however, the knock on a door was replaced by the ring of the phone. For the safety of all involved, people with ALS, chapter staff, and board members couldn’t travel to Washington D.C. for the day. As with much in our world today, the visits had to be done remotely.

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An ALS Awareness Month Like No Other

No doubt, this is a May like no other. But at the same time, the world continues, and as we mark May as ALS Awareness Month, we take this opportunity to remind our larger community what our ALS community knows all too well: that even with all the uncertainty and unrest caused by COVID-19, ALS doesn’t stop, and neither do we as we work to support our ALS community as they face new and existing challenges.

Because of the need for extreme social distancing during this pandemic, people with ALS and their caregivers have no choice but to take extraordinary precautions and isolate themselves nearly completely. This means they are at risk of losing access to services that are traditionally delivered in person at their homes or in a clinic. Our Care Service team has been working to bridge this connection gap by reaching out by phone and video conference, and by ensuring people with ALS have access to their clinic staff in whatever way makes sense for them. Even as we have been working remotely, our staff has been in constant collaboration around how to best serve our community and how we can prepare for the time when can once again gather together.

But even though we are still mostly at home, you don’t have it sit this ALS Awareness Month out. There are many way you can have an impact on our fight to end ALS.

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ALS Cause Gets a Push in Both Houses of Congress

The narrative that nothing gets done in Washington saturates the media, as the does the narrative that bipartisanship is a thing of the past. Regardless of if you are a casual observer of political news or a news junkie, you might guess that everything that happens on Capitol Hill is all out political warfare, all of the time.

If so, you might be happy to learn that just since the beginning of 2020, bipartisan efforts in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are taking place that offer a real chance for significant movement in the area of ALS advocacy and ALS research.

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Wishing You a Hopeful New Year

As 2020 begins in earnest with the first full work week, we asked our Board Chair Josh Rogers to share some thoughts on the upcoming year. Here is Josh’s message for us all:

The ringing in of each new year brings with it hope. When the ball drops and fireworks fill the sky on New Year’s Eve, when we hang a new calendar on the wall and open it to January, when we walk through the front door at work on the first business day of the new year, we press the symbolic reset button on life. We put behind us the challenges and neglected resolutions of the year before and welcome with optimism the next 12 months.

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