The Food and Drug Administration yanked the fight against Alzheimer’s out of the mire with its approval of the first disease-modifying therapy. Although it’s a modest first step, it paves the way for more momentous breakthroughs.

The drug — aducanumab by Biogen and Eisai — is a monoclonal antibody that clears a toxic protein called beta-amyloid from the brain. The drug can’t reverse Alzheimer’s-related damage once amyloid has seized a beachhead and symptoms of the disease emerge. Its promise lies in battling amyloid before it does irreversible harm.

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