A breakthrough

Researchers have hailed a breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s with the discovery of a drug which for the first time can slow down the progress of the condition.

In a large-scale trial, one group of volunteers with early-stage Alzheimer’s were given doses of the drug lecanemab every fortnight for 18 months whilst a control group was given a placebo.

Results showed that for those given lecanemab, the cognitive and memory decline associated with the disease slowed by around 27%.

Lecanemab is an anti-body that clears the protein amyloid from the brain. Amyloid clumps together in the spaces between neurons in the brain and forms distinctive plaques that are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.

Whilst there is still some way to go before lecanemab can be declared a cure, the results still signify an historic moment as  it is the first time that treatment has successfully slowed the deterioration of the brain associated with what is the most common form of dementia.

Currently, people with Alzheimer’s are given other drugs to help manage their symptoms, but none change the course of the disease.

Experts have suggested that people have, on average, six years of living independently once mild cognitive impairment starts. Slowing that decline by a quarter – as the lecanemab trials have done – could equate to an extra 19 months of independent life.

In the UK latest Government figures show that Dementia and Alzheimers diseases are the nation’s number 1 killer, accounting for 12.7% of all deaths.

With 900,000 people currently diagnosed as living with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Society has welcomed the breakthrough as offering the best hope yet that a cure can be found.

Dr Richard Oakley, the charity’s Associate Director of Research, added that the news gives hope that those affected could have more quality time as a family.

Significantly the trials were only carried out on people in the early onset of Alzheimer’s, underlining the importance of early diagnosis. Also, some side-effects were recorded with some patients so whilst welcoming the breakthrough, Dr Oakley also urged caution.

‘There is still a long way to go before we could see lecanemab available on the NHS, and we await clarity for how and when the approval process will take place in the UK, and whether regulators believe it is cost-effective.,” said Dr Oakley in a statement on alzheimers.org.uk

He added: “We mustn’t forget that lecanemab can only be given to people with early Alzheimer’s disease who have amyloid in their brain. This means people with other types of dementia or in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s can’t benefit from this drug.” 

Lecanemab has been granted “priority review” by the US Food and Drug Administration, meaning they will decide whether to approve it for public consumption within six months.

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