Groundbreaking Alzheimer’s Drug Donanemab Slows Cognitive Decline By One-Third, New Study Reveals

Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug Shown to Slow Cognitive Decline by a Third

Results from a recent study have revealed that the drug donanemab, hailed as a significant advancement in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease, can slow cognitive decline by approximately one-third. Mike Colley, an 80-year-old participant in the global trial, receives a monthly infusion of the antibody treatment at a clinic in London. Colley, who describes himself as one of the luckiest individuals one could meet, explains that the treatment has been particularly helpful in the early stages of the disease. Donanemab specifically targets the build-up of amyloid, a substance that accumulates in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients. It is worth noting that this treatment is effective for Alzheimer’s disease but not for other forms of dementia, such as vascular dementia.

Before joining the trial, Colley and his family noticed his struggles with memory and decision-making. His son, Mark, recalls the difficulty of watching his father struggle. However, Mark mentions that the decline appears to have reached a plateau. Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Colley expressed his growing confidence every day.

While these drugs show immense promise, they are not cures or devoid of risks. In the donanemab trial, up to one-third of patients experienced brain swelling as a side effect. For most, the swelling resolved without causing symptoms. However, two volunteers (and potentially a third) tragically died as a result of dangerous brain swelling. Another Alzheimer’s drug called aducanumab was recently rejected by European regulators due to safety concerns and a lack of evidence regarding its effectiveness for patients.

In the donanemab trial, researchers examined 1,736 individuals aged 60 to 85 with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Half of the participants received monthly infusions of donanemab while the other half received a placebo over 18 months. The results indicate that the drug has a significant benefit, especially for patients with less amyloid in their brain at the start of the trial. Those given the drug retained more of their day-to-day functioning, such as discussing current events, answering the phone, or pursuing hobbies. Overall, the progression of the disease was shown to be slowed by 20-30%, with a 30-40% slowdown seen in a subgroup of patients more likely to respond to the treatment.

While the drug showed notable benefits, there were also significant side effects that patients need to be cautious of. However, half of the patients in the donanemab trial were able to stop treatment after a year because the drug had successfully cleared a sufficient amount of amyloid deposits in their brains. It remains unclear how the treatment’s effects might evolve over a longer period or if removing amyloid from the brain will continue to play a significant role in altering the course of Alzheimer’s disease. Nonetheless, experts view these results as another step forward in the fight against dementia and as potential hope for those impacted by the devastating disease.

Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, describes the announcement as a milestone and highlights the changing outlook for dementia. She believes that Alzheimer’s disease is entering a new era where it could become treatable. The Alzheimer’s Society emphasizes that this breakthrough represents a turning point in the fight against Alzheimer’s, but warns that the NHS is not currently equipped to deliver these emerging treatments. They stress the importance of timely and accurate diagnosis, as well as the need for increased capacity within the healthcare system to administer regular infusions and monitoring for these drugs.

The price and availability of donanemab in the UK remain uncertain. However, having two drugs for Alzheimer’s treatment could foster competition and potentially drive down costs. NICE, the UK’s drug’s watchdog, has already begun its appraisal of donanemab for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. They aim to produce recommendations on its use in the NHS as soon as it receives its UK license.

Mike Colley’s experience serves as an encouraging example of the potential impact of donanemab. On his 80th birthday, he surprised his family by singing “My Way” in front of 40 guests, a feat he would not have accomplished just a year prior. His son expressed his elation at witnessing his father’s renewed passion for life. Dr. Emer MacSweeney, medical director at Re:Cognition Health, and the leading researcher for the donanemab trials in the UK, describes this breakthrough as one of the most significant advancements in Alzheimer’s treatment.

In conclusion, the latest study provides evidence that the experimental drug donanemab can reduce cognitive decline by approximately one-third in Alzheimer’s patients. While the results are promising, the drugs are not without risks. Brain swelling occurred in a significant number of participants, causing the unfortunate deaths of two volunteers. However, the drug’s ability to clear amyloid deposits in the brain suggests a potential shift in the course of Alzheimer’s disease. Further research and consideration of appropriate infrastructure and resources are crucial in order to effectively deliver these emerging treatments to the millions affected by Alzheimer’s disease.