An experimental drug developed to tackle Alzheimer’s disease has been demonstrated to slow the condition’s progression by as much as 35 per cent in clinical trials.
Donanemab, manufactured by US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co, has been shown to delay the deterioration of a patients’ cognitive function in the early stages of the disease by approximately four to seven months.
Eli Lilly is seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the medicine. If authorised, this would become only the second Alzheimer’s medication conclusively proven to postpone the frightening progression of the memory-devouring disease.
The findings of its global clinical trials have been presented to a major Alzheimer’s conference in the Netherlands and also published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The study looked at more than 1700 participants aged between 60 and 85 who were previously identified as showing early Alzheimer’s symptoms. The participants were split into two groups, with one given donanemab intravenously every four weeks for 72 weeks, and the other given a placebo on the same schedule.
Donanemab works by clearing your brain of amyloid plaques, which are known to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.
At the 12-month mark of the trial, 47 per cent of the donanemab group showed no evidence of amyloid plaque growth, compared with just 29 per cent of the placebo group.
The researchers found the effects persisted even after discontinuing donanemab doses. The injections were able to reduce amyloid to non-existent levels where they would not re-accumulate for many years.
Australian geriatrician Associate Professor Michael Woodward, who was at the Alzheimer’s conference, told the ABC that the trials’ results represented the next stage in Alzheimer’s treatment.
“I would regard this as the end of the beginning in Alzheimer’s therapies,” he said.
“The word ‘breakthrough’ is used perhaps a little too often, but this is a major breakthrough.”
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM echoed the sentiment, saying this drug was an exciting new development and another step forward in expanding the number of treatments for dementia.
“These results provide much needed hope for people who are developing symptoms, have mild cognitive impairment or who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” she says.
“With dementia the second leading cause of death of Australians, and the leading cause of death of Australian women, we welcome any steps taken towards improving the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers.”
However, she conceded there may still be some time before we see donanemab for sale in Australia as it needs to be approved by authorities here first.
“Donanemab will need to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use in Australia,” she says.
“It also comes with possible side-effects that need to be carefully monitored by health professionals.”
Is there a history of Alzheimer’s in your family? Do you think this drug could help you? Let us know in the comments section below.
Also read: How sugar impacts your risk of Alzheimer’s