This Alzheimer's Drug Slashes Symptoms by 30 Percent, New Study Says
It's the first medication to successfully slow cognitive decline.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that worsens memory and other cognitive functions over time. However, new research is giving scientists and patients hope that the progression of the disease is not an inevitable outcome. That's because a new drug—delivered in the form of twice weekly infusions—appears to reduce Alzheimer's symptoms by up to 30 percent in just 18 months. Researchers are reeling at the news of this breakthrough, which could improve quality of life for the millions of individuals living with Alzheimer's in the U.S and around the world.
"This is an unambiguously statistically positive result and represents something of an historic moment when we see the first convincing modification of Alzheimer's disease," Rob Howard, PhD, a professor of old age psychiatry at University College London (UCL), told The Guardian. "God knows, we've waited long enough for this." Read on to learn which drug is making history in dementia research, and how it could affect you and your loved ones.
This new Alzheimer's drug slashes symptoms by nearly 30 percent.
On Sept. 27, the pharmaceutical companies Eisai and Biogen announced the results from an 18-month, phase 3 clinical trial for the Alzheimer's drug lecanemab. Classified as an anti-amyloid antibody treatment, lecanemab slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 27 percent in early stage Alzheimer's patients, the data showed.
"This is a historic moment for dementia research, as this is the first phase 3 trial of an Alzheimer's drug in a generation to successfully slow cognitive decline," said Susan Kohlhaas, PhD, the director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK. "Many people feel Alzheimer's is an inevitable part of aging. This spells it out: if you intervene early you can make an impact on how people progress."
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The drug's efficacy offers clues about Alzheimer's.
Beyond the obvious benefits of the drug itself, experts say the success of the trial also offers clues as to how Alzheimer's disease develops and progresses.
Specifically, it supports the "amyloid hypothesis," which posits that "beta-amyloid, a sticky compound that accumulates in the brain, disrupting communication between brain cells and eventually killing them "is to blame for Alzheimer's disease. "Some researchers believe that flaws in the processes governing production, accumulation or disposal of beta-amyloid are the primary cause of Alzheimer's," explains a report from the Alzheimer's Association.
Some of the study subjects experienced side effects.
Though news of the drug's efficacy is undoubtedly promising, the researchers did note that some study subjects experienced side effects as a result of taking lecanemab. In fact, about 21 percent of trial participants reported adverse effects, compared with nine percent of those taking a placebo. These included brain swelling or brain bleeding visible on PET scans. However, only three percent of patients experienced symptomatic side effects.
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The findings may open doors to future discoveries.
The trial lasted just 18 months, and researchers say that given more time, it's possible that the benefits could continue to take effect past that period. The National Institute on Health, which did not fund the initial study, says it is currently funding two additional trials which will evaluate "safety and efficacy of lecanemab on participants who have varying amounts of amyloid pathology, but do not yet have levels of cognitive decline to warrant a dementia diagnosis." In other words, they'll be looking at whether the drug is able to slow the rate of cognitive decline in those who have minimal symptoms or none at all.
Eisai and Biogen have announced that they plan to file for traditional approval for the drug in the U.S. by Mar. 2023. Speak with your healthcare provider to learn more about interventions and treatments that are currently available to improve Alzheimer's symptoms.