Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
spotlight

Promising drug slows Alzheimer's, but can it make a real difference?

  • 0

An experimental Alzheimer's drug modestly slowed the brain disease's inevitable worsening, researchers reported Tuesday, but it remains unclear how much difference that might make in people's lives.

Japanese drugmaker Eisai and its U.S. partner Biogen had announced earlier this fall that the drug lecanemab appeared to work, a badly needed bright spot after repeated disappointments in the quest for better Alzheimer's treatments.

Now the companies are providing full results of the study of nearly 1,800 people in the earliest stages of the mind-robbing disease. The data was presented at an Alzheimer's meeting in San Francisco and published in The New England Journal of Medicine. U.S. regulators could approve the drug as soon as January.

Every two weeks for 18 months, study participants received intravenous lecanemab or a dummy infusion. Researchers tracked them using an 18-point scale that measures cognitive and functional ability.

Those given lecanemab declined more slowly — a difference of not quite half a point on that scale, concluded the research team led by Dr. Christopher van Dyck at Yale University.

That's a hard-to-understand change, but measured a different way, lecanemab delayed patients' worsening by about five months over the course of the study, Eisai's Dr. Michael Irizarry told The Associated Press. Also, lecanemab recipients were 31% less likely to advance to the next stage of the disease during the study.

"That translates to more time in earlier stages" when people function better, Irizarry said.

Alzheimer's Drug

This illustration made available by the National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health depicts cells in an Alzheimer’s-affected brain, with abnormal levels of the beta-amyloid protein clumping together to form plaques that collect between neurons and disrupt cell function.

But doctors are divided over how much difference those changes may make for patients and families.

"It is unlikely that the small difference reported in this trial will be noticeable by individual patients," said Dr. Madhav Thambisetty of the National Institute on Aging, who noted he wasn't speaking for the government agency.

He said many researchers believe a meaningful improvement would require at least a difference of a full point on that 18-point scale.

But Dr. Ron Petersen, an Alzheimer's expert at the Mayo Clinic, said the drug's effect was "a modest one but I think it's clinically meaningful" — because even a few months' delay in progression could give someone a little more time when they're functioning independently.

The trial is important because it shows a drug that attacks a sticky protein called amyloid — considered one of several culprits behind Alzheimer's — can delay disease progression, said Maria Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer's Association.

"We all understand that this is not a cure and we're all trying to really grasp what it means to slow Alzheimer's, because this is a first," Carrillo said.

But any delay in cognitive decline early on could be meaningful for "how much time we have with our loved ones in a stage of disease where we can still enjoy family and outings, vacations, bucket lists," she said.

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Amyloid-targeting drugs can cause side effects that include swelling and bleeding in the brain, and lecanemab did as well. One type of this swelling was seen in about 13% of recipients. Eisai said most were mild or asymptomatic.

Also, two deaths have been publicly reported among lecanemab users who also were taking blood-thinning medications for other health problems. Eisai said Tuesday the deaths can't be attributed to the Alzheimer's drug.

But Mayo's Petersen said if lecanemab is approved for use in the U.S., he'd avoid prescribing it to people on blood thinners at least initially.

And Thambisetty said the death reports raise concern about how the drug may be tolerated outside of research studies "where patients are likely to be sicker and have multiple other medical conditions."

The Food and Drug Administration is considering approving lecanemab under its fast-track program, with a decision expected in early January. If approved, it would be the second anti-amyloid drug on the market.

Watch Now: Five ways older adults can improve fitness, and more videos to improve your life

Here are five ways older adults can establish a fitness routine, how self care can help you manage stress, and more videos to improve your life.

  • Updated
  • 0

It is never too late to start and establish a fitness routine that can improve your health significantly in later life.

  • Updated
  • 0

According to pickthebrain.com, self care can play a huge role in stress management and can provide a number of different advantages.

  • Updated
  • 0

If you’re expecting a tax refund this year, you may be concerned about a few things. These are the top three concerns taxpayers have right now…

  • Updated
  • 0

Weddings in 2022 are expected to happen in record numbers. This upcoming life-changing event is the perfect opportunity to get on the same pag…

  • Updated
  • 0

Spring is right around the corner, so it is now time to get your garden ready for the new growing season. Here are four things you should do t…

  • Updated
  • 0

Here are four of the worst foods for heart health, according to dietitians.

  • Updated
  • 0

Many of us will be familiar with the feeling of becoming off-balance during a jog or toppling to one side during a yoga class. But no matter y…

  • Updated
  • 0

Does the sniff test actually work to tell you if food is still good? Veuer’s Keri Lumm reports on two views.

  • Updated
  • 0

'Newsweek' reports that the key to being more productive, creative and effective may be incorporating rest into your schedule.

  • Updated
  • 0

The date of the last frost varies wildly, so you'll want to look up the average date for your area before you think about planting anything.

AP
  • Updated
  • 0

Regardless of how you motivate yourself to get things done, sometimes you need actual tips from experts who know how to increase their product…

0 Comments
0
0
0
0
0

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News