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Alabama Football Raises Awareness of Veterans with ALS

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Walter Wallace, was born in Tuscaloosa Alabama, where he lived until joining the US Air Force. He developed a lifelong love of his beloved Crimson Tide, which he passed on to his son Levi. A 21-year veteran of the Air Force, Walter never dreamed of seeing his son play football for Alabama.

And one day before Levi left to begin his studies at Alabama, Walter was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Inspired by his father, Levi walked on and earned a spot playing for the Crimson Tide. However, Walter died two months later, the night before the Tide’s spring game. This year, Levi has emerged as a top backup and valuable special teams contributor on the Alabama football team.

Now veterans with ALS, like Walter, have another form of treatment within the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) comprehensive healthcare system. The VA has added RADICAVA (edaravone) to its national formulary. In clinical trials, people given the drug experienced a 33 percent slower rate of decline in the loss of physical function, compared to those given a placebo.

“The VA’s decision to offer broad coverage is a significant step to help veterans living with ALS,” said Tom Larson, MTPA Chief Commercial Officer. “Veterans sacrificed for our country through their service, and we are pleased the VA has taken this important step for the ALS community.”

“It is a great source of hope to not only see the FDA approve RADICAVA, but to also have the VA rapidly approve it for use in veterans,” said Matt Bellina, a retired U.S. Navy Lt. Commander with ALS. “This signals a great effort to uphold the sacred obligation to care for all of us who served.”
An estimated 5,000-6,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with ALS.[i],[ii],[iii] The majority of ALS patients die within two to five years of receiving a diagnosis, but progression of the disease can vary significantly.[iv]

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[i] ALS Association. Quick Facts about ALS. http://www.alsa.org/news/media/quick-facts.html. Accessed October 2017.

[ii] Marin B, Boumediene F, Logroscino G, et al. (2016). Variation in worldwide incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a meta-analysis. Int J Epidemiol, 00:1-18.

[iii] National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Information Page. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/all-disorders/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als-information-page. Accessed October 2017.

[iv] Mehta P, Kaye W, Bryan L, et al. (2016). Prevalence of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis — United States, 2012–2013. MMWR Surveill Summ;   65(No. SS-8):1–12