Donanemab drug shows potential in slowing Alzheimer’s progression
This antibody medicine targets a specific protein that accumulates in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s during the early stages of the disease
While the drug’s impact may be modest, it provides confirmation that targeting amyloid in the brain can potentially alter the course of Alzheimer’s, benefiting patients if administered at the right time – (Representative Image: iStock)
A new drug called donanemab has emerged as a potential breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s, following a global trial that confirms its ability to slow cognitive decline, the BBC reported.
This antibody medicine targets a specific protein that accumulates in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s during the early stages of the disease.
While not a cure, the results published in the journal JAMA indicate a promising new era in Alzheimer’s treatment.
The UK’s drugs watchdog is currently evaluating donanemab for potential NHS use.
The drug has shown efficacy in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, allowing patients to maintain more of their day-to-day activities and cognitive abilities.
However, it is essential to note that the drug is not without side effects, with brain swelling reported in some patients during the trial.
Donanemab’s effects have been demonstrated in a study of 1,736 people aged 60 to 85 with early-stage Alzheimer’s.
Half of the participants received a monthly infusion of the treatment, while the other half were administered a placebo over an 18-month period. The findings revealed that the drug showed meaningful benefits for some patients.
Those with earlier stages of the disease and lower baseline brain amyloid levels experienced greater benefits, as observed through brain scans showing clearance.
Additionally, the patients receiving the drug retained more of their day-to-day functioning, including the ability to discuss current events, answer the phone, and engage in hobbies.
Overall, the pace of the disease’s progression was slowed by approximately 20-30%, and in a specific group of patients believed more likely to respond, the slowing was 30-40%.
However, there were significant side-effects, underscoring the importance of patients being aware of potential treatment risks.
Also, half of the patients on donanemab were able to discontinue the treatment after a year, as it had successfully cleared sufficient brain deposits.
Despite these positive findings, experts caution that amyloid is just one aspect of Alzheimer’s complexity, and it remains unclear if the treatment will continue to have a significant impact over an extended period.
While the drug’s impact may be modest, it provides confirmation that targeting amyloid in the brain can potentially alter the course of Alzheimer’s, benefiting patients if administered at the right time.
The breakthrough findings have received accolades from experts and organizations in the field of Alzheimer’s research.
Former UK prime minister David Cameron has called for further investment in research to develop a “statin for the brain,” a pill that can clear harmful proteins from the brain and reduce the risk of dementia-causing diseases.
However, while donanemab and other emerging Alzheimer’s drugs offer hope, challenges lie ahead in terms of NHS readiness and affordable access to treatments.
The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that approximately 720,000 people in the UK could potentially benefit from these treatments once approved, but more work is needed to ensure timely and accurate diagnosis and effective implementation in the healthcare system.