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Promising drug slows Alzheimer's decline by 36%

Advancements require careful evaluation and further research

Source: Daily Mail

A new drug that claims to slow mental decline caused by Alzheimer's by 36 percent could spell 'the beginning of the end' for the degenerative brain disease.

Donanemab - a drug taken as a monthly infusion for 18 months - was found to also halt a reduction in the ability to perform daily activities by up to 40 percent, according to initial findings published on May 3.

And tomorrow, US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly will unveil the full results of its trials of the drug - which is the second shown to slow the progression of dementia.

Less than a year ago, another drug, called lecanemab, was found to slash cognitive decline among those with the memory-robbing condition by 27 percent. It was approved for use in the US on July 7, while a UK introduction of the drug is 'on the horizon'.

It comes just weeks after news presenter Fiona Phillips heartbreakingly revealed her shock Alzheimer's diagnosis aged 62.

Writing for The Mirror, associate director of Alzheimer's Society Dr. Richard Oakley, said: 'After 20 years with no new Alzheimer’s disease drugs in the UK, we now have two potential new drugs in 12 months.'

Donanemab works by clearing plaque clusters from the brain known as amyloid, which is closely associated with Alzheimer's disease. It is administered to patients via once-a-month intravenous injections for up to 18 months, or until the amyloid clusters in the brain have been cleared.

The drug is a monoclonal antibody - a man-made protein that binds to amyloid clusters in the brain, prompting other cells to remove them.

In a phase 3 trial, donanemab slowed down the decline in patients' ability to think clearly and perform daily tasks by 36 percent compared to a placebo.

And tomorrow, experts across the world will begin to measure the risks of the groundbreaking drug against the benefits, as such drugs can carry risk factors such as brain swelling and bleeding.

The results of the donanemab trial will be revealed at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam today and the drug could be licensed as safe in the UK in as little as a year to 18 months.

The NHS would then have to weigh up the cost-effectiveness when it comes to who it can give the drug. Experts fear this could result in donanemab only being available to those who can afford to go private.

While the cost of donanemab is yet to be revealed, researchers have suggested it will be priced at $1,600 (£1,273) per dose or $20,000 (£15,909) annually.

And after the study's initial findings were unveiled in May, top doctors in the UK warned that the NHS is not ready to dish out the breakthrough medication and needs to 'gear up' now in preparation for such treatments.

Around 850,000 Britons and 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease.

The disease is the leading cause of dementia, a condition where suffers have an impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities.

Dementia affects 900,000 people in the UK and an estimated 7 million in the US.

The trial involved 1,182 people with early-stage disease and researchers found donanemab reduced progression of Alzheimer's by more than a third when compared to placebo.

The medicine works by using the immune system to help remove toxic plaque build-ups in the brain known as amyloid, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Almost half of the trial participants (47 percent) had no evidence of amyloid plaques at 12 months, the company said, compared with 29 percent of the placebo group.

Those taking donanemab experienced a 39 percent lower risk of progressing to the next stage of disease compared to placebo, the trial data showed.

When follow-up brain scans showed that amyloid had been removed, the treatment was stopped, and volunteers were moved to the placebo arm of the study.

It suggests this may provide a way of 'inducing remission' in Alzheimer's and then monitoring without treatment.

The condition is considered a global health concern as people live longer. It puts an increasing burden on healthcare systems including in the UK.

Treating and caring for patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia is estimated to cost Britain £25 billion each year, according to Alzheimer's Research UK, the vast majority of that being in social care spending.

Cyprus  |  Alzheimer  |  health  |  medicine

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