Neuroscience brings first drug to slow Alzheimer's Disease

30th Nov 2022

Graphical representation of the human brain

The first drug to slow the destruction of the brain in Alzheimer's Disease has been heralded as momentous, ending decades of failure and showing that a new era of drugs to treat Alzheimer's - the most common form of dementia - is possible.

However the drug, lecanemab, has only a small effect and its impact on people's daily lives is debated. The drugs have to be given early in the disease before too much damage to the brain is done, whereas most people referred to memory services are in the later stages.

It's thanks to fundamental neuroscience research that we know amyloid protein deposits are associated with memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. We now know that removing these deposits from patients' brains can significantly improve their quality of life. This knowledge has enabled researchers at Biogen (makers of lecanemab) and Eli Lilly & Co., who also worked on this project together with Biogen, to develop an antibody against beta amyloid.

It is important to note that lecanemab isn't a cure - it merely slows down cognitive decline in people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease. That said, it does give hope for future treatments that might actually be able to stop or reverse Alzheimer's completely.

As BNA's President-Elect Professor Tara Spires-Jones said, "even though it is not dramatic, I would take it".

Results of the phase 3 trial of lecanemab for early Alzheimer’s disease has been published in New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Read the full statement from Biogen.

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