Early Treatment with Eli Lilly’s Donanemab Shows Promise in Slowing Alzheimer’s Disease Progression, Study Finds

New Experimental Drug Shows Promise in Treating Alzheimer’s in Early Stages

New research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam suggests that an experimental drug from Eli Lilly may have the most significant impact on Alzheimer’s patients if administered in the early stages of the disease, even before symptoms manifest. The drug, known as donanemab, has demonstrated the ability to slow the progression of memory and cognitive decline by approximately 30%. However, the effectiveness of the drug nearly doubles, reaching 60%, when treatment commences during the mild impairment stage.

The study, which involved over 1,700 patients, revealed that the drug’s impact was less significant in older patients and those with higher levels of the tau protein associated with Alzheimer’s progression. These findings underscore the importance of early detection and diagnosis in altering the trajectory of the disease. Anne White, the president of neuroscience at Lilly, emphasized the potential benefits of early intervention in combating Alzheimer’s.

Lilly expects a decision from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding the approval of donanemab by the end of this year. The company is also submitting applications for approval to other global regulators. Donanemab is part of a new class of intravenous antibodies, similar to the recently approved Leqembi from Eisai and Biogen, that are designed to remove beta-amyloid protein deposits from the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, the executive director of research and partnerships at Alzheimer’s Research UK, expressed her support for the new data released by Lilly, highlighting the potential of amyloid removal in altering the course of the disease. However, the study also revealed some side effects associated with the drug, such as brain swelling, brain bleeding, and three deaths linked to treatment. While these side effects should not be taken lightly, they can be managed through monitoring with magnetic resonance imaging or discontinuing the drug.

Despite participants being taken off the drug after their amyloid deposits significantly decreased, the treatment effect of donanemab continued to increase over the 18-month trial. White believes these findings suggest that donanemab can be stopped once amyloid is cleared from the brain. The study also found that disease progression was delayed by an average of 4.4 to 7.5 months over the course of 18 months.

The recent approval of Leqembi by the FDA has paved the way for wider coverage of Alzheimer’s disease-modifying treatments. Both Leqembi and donanemab are being further studied to examine their impact on delaying the onset of symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients. Dr. Reisa Sperling from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston expressed optimism about the outcomes of these prevention trials, stating that the latest research provides hope for the future.

With more than 55 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, the development of effective treatments is crucial. The findings from this study demonstrate the potential benefits of early intervention using donanemab in addressing the most common form of dementia. As research and clinical trials progress, there is optimism surrounding the future of Alzheimer’s treatment.

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