'Microdosing' candies linked to illness, death, and a new Alzheimer's drug: A look at health stories you may have missed

What to know about a new Alzheimer's drug. (Getty Creative)
What to know about a new Alzheimer's drug. (Getty Creative)

Hello, health and wellness readers. My name is Kaitlin, your guide to the latest health news you may have missed.

First, let’s take a look at what our team wrote about this week:

Here’s other stories you need to know about.

💊 The FDA approved a new Alzheimer's drug

The Food and Drug Administration just approved pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug donanemab, following a clinical trial that showed the drug slowed Alzheimer’s progression by around 35% after 18 months. It will be sold under the brand name Kisunla.

The drug, which was cleared for adults with mild cognitive impairment, is a monoclonal antibody infusion given every four weeks. It works by targeting amyloid, a protein found in our bodies that can turn into plaques in the brain when they clump and stick together.

This news comes more than two weeks after it was announced that FDA advisers backed the drug as a potential medication to treat dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. Initially, there were concerns over the study design of trials that purported to show the benefits of the drug.

What it means: The approval of Eli Lilly’s drug offers people with Alzheimer’s more time — which is often crucial when it comes to making health and caregiving decisions. It’s not the only drug on the market: Last summer, the FDA also approved Leqembi, from Japanese drugmaker Eisai, due to evidence that it slows the disease’s progression.

Medicare will likely cover Kisunla, as last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services agreed to pay for new Alzheimer’s drugs, provided they are granted full FDA approval. This will make the latest treatment options more accessible to more people — a win for those suffering from this neurological disorder.

💉 There's more (complicated) news about weight loss drugs

Could weight loss drugs lower your cancer risk? New research found that individuals with type-2 diabetes who took GLP-1 medications — such as semaglutide, the ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy — reduced their risk of 10 common obesity-associated cancers, such as gallbladder and pancreatic cancer.

At the same time, a link was also found between semaglutide and a rare eye condition that can cause blindness called Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy, or NAION.

What it means: With so many people taking GLP-1 medications (a recent poll found that 1 in 8 adults have taken a GLP-1 medication at some point in their lives) it makes sense that more research will come out about the potential benefits (and possible downsides) of these drugs.

The researchers who looked at GLP-1 medications said that long-term studies are needed to confirm if these medications can directly prevent obesity-related cancers. Although GLP-1 medications reduced the risk of cancer compared to insulin alone, they did not show a significant reduction in cancer risk for people taking the diabetes medication metformin, which helps lower blood sugar levels. In some cases, these GLP-1 medications were also associated with an increased risk of kidney cancer.

As for the risk of NAION, Bavand Youssefzadeh, an ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills, Calif., previously told Yahoo Life that he’s not worried, as most medication comes with possible rare side effects. “Patients who take these medications already have diabetes or [are] overweight, so they’re already at an increased risk for eye disease,” he notes. If you are suffering from new vision problems, it’s important to seek medical assistance — whether you’re on semaglutide or not.

🍬 Microdosing candies are linked with illness, death

Federal health officials are investigating dozens of illnesses — and one possible death — linked to recalled “microdosing” candies sold by the company Diamond Shruumz. The company makes products like chocolate bars, cones and gummies that contain the amanita mushroom-derived psychoactive chemical muscimol, which is legal to possess and consume in the United States.

After consuming these products, at least 48 people in 24 states reported severe symptoms (including seizures, abnormal heart rates and loss of consciousness), and 27 were hospitalized. One death is currently being investigated.

What it means for you: Though microdosing products are more easily accessible to purchase online and in smoke shops — and the public is more comfortable with them — there is still an overall lack of regulation of the industry that comes with risk. More research on muscimol is specifically needed in order to assess its potential therapeutic benefits and risks.

While officials do not know the specific cause of these illnesses, they warn that anyone who still has these products should stop using them immediately.