A new drug found to reduce cognitive decline in early-stage Alzheimer’s has been hailed as an “historic moment” in the treatment of the disease.
During trials, Lecanemab was found to slow the decline in people’s memory and thinking by up to 27% over 18 months, compared with a placebo.
Alzheimer’s Research UK called the finding a “historic moment for dementia research”, with the medication becoming the first later-stage trial of an Alzheimer’s drug “in a generation” to successfully slow cognitive decline.
The phase three clinical trial results were reported by the Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai, who were working alongside the US firm Biogen to develop Lecanemab.
The medication works by clearing deposits of amyloid, a protein that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients during the early stages of the disease.
Eisai reported results from a trial of 1,795 participants with early Alzheimer’s disease, with reduction in cognitive decline evident six months into the study.
The company said it plans to discuss the results with medical regulators with a view to file for market approval before the end of March.
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This is the first drug that’s been shown to not only remove the build-up of a protein called amyloid in the brain, but to have a small but statistically significant impact on cognitive decline in people with early-stage disease.
“If the drug is approved, it is essential that it gets to the people who may benefit from it as quickly as possible.”
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Other experts were equally excited by the breakthrough. Dr Richard Oakley, associate director of research at Alzheimer’s Society, called the treatment potentially “game-changing”.
Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at University College London, simply added: “God knows, we’ve waited long enough for this.”
A report in 2019 found that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect about 900,000 people in the UK. Treatment and care for patients cost the country about £34.7 billion a year.