A new Alzheimer’s drug Lecanemab offers a benefit to patients

American researchers presented results of a study of nearly 1,800 people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Those who took lecanemab for 18 months experienced 27% less decline in memory and thinking. Lecanemab, like many of those other drugs, contains lab-made monoclonal antibodies designed to remove a substance called beta-amyloid from the brain.

Alzheimer’s Research UK said the findings were “momentous”.

Lecanemab targets amyloid, which scientists believe to play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s; leading researchers in this field of treatment said it was “historic” and was optimistic “we’re seeing the beginning of Alzheimer’s therapies”. This is a big deal for years of other failed treatments and research. Currently, people with Alzheimer’s are given other drugs to help manage their symptoms, but none change the course of the disease.

Lecanemab has been designed for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease but before lecanemab can become available for use, drug regulatory bodies will make a decision as to whether or not lecanemab is both effective and safe as a treatment for early Alzheimer’s disease. This drug is not available yet, it is likely to be at least a couple of years before a treatment is available on the NHS.

How is this drug different to the ones we already have?

Current drugs are known as ‘symptomatic’ treatments – they allow our brain cells to communicate better so can counteract the damage caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s, but don’t target the underlying disease itself. Although these treatments can make a big difference to somebody’s quality of life, they can’t slow or stop the underlying damage getting worse, and their benefits usually only last for around a year.

By directly targeting amyloid, lecanemab slows down the disease, and will hopefully allow people to live independently for longer.

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