Latest data raises apprehensions about the occurrence of brain enlargement and bleeding in patients
Scientists lauded the start of a new era of therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease after a drug was proven to slow cognitive decline in patients in the early phases of the disease.
Some experts are hopeful that the discovery, which comes after decades of futile attempts, would eventually open the door for treatments that could finally lead to a cure.
The findings of the clinical trials were published in the New England Journal of Medicine November 29, 2022.
The developers of the drug, Lecanemab — US-based Biogen and the Japanese drug maker Eisai — released the preliminary findings of a clinical trial involving over 1,800 patients in September this year.
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It showed that the drug slowed cognitive decline by 27 per cent across the trial period.
“There is much more belief now that we can find something. As a doctor, I feel like we might be able to offer something decent to patients within the next few years,” said Professor Bart De Strooper from the UK Dementia Research Institute.
However, the latest trial data supports those conclusions while raising apprehensions about the occurrence of ‘adverse events’, such as brain enlargement and bleeding, in patients.
Some doctors and experts warned that the drug’s potential for helping patients may be limited. They claimed that the little reduction in cognitive deterioration that patients reported would be insufficient for some to outweigh the potentially harmful side effects.
Brain haemorrhage occurred in 17.3 per cent of patients who received the medicine as opposed to 9 per cent who received a placebo (inert drug). Brain swelling was seen in 12.6 per cent of those taking the drug compared to in 1.7 per cent taking a placebo.
In both arms of the drug trial, deaths were reported at roughly the same rates. The initial excitement surrounding lecanemab was tempered by two potential treatment-related deaths.
“Longer trials are warranted to determine the efficacy and safety of lecanemab in early Alzheimer’s Disease,” the researchers wrote.
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The treatment uses antibodies to get rid of beta amyloid protein clumps that accumulate in the brain.
It is ambiguous as to what extent the clumps contribute to Alzheimer’s. Still, in people with inherited forms of the disease, it can drive a series of alterations in the brain.
“I believe it confirms a new era of disease modification for Alzheimer’s Disease. An era that comes after more than 20 years of hard work on anti-amyloid immunotherapies,” Nick Fox, professor of clinical neurology and director of the Dementia Research Centre told The Guardian.
Alzheimer’s, the most prevalent type of dementia, is a neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide and is currently incurable. Early detection is critical to reducing the symptoms. Unfortunately, the disease is often detected at its advanced stages.
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