Lecanemab an Alzheimer’s drug is hailed as a major development. It has been hailed as historic that the first medication to slow Alzheimer’s brain deterioration has been developed.
The scientific discovery puts an end to decades of futility and demonstrates that new drug development for Alzheimer’s, the most prevalent form of dementia, is feasible.
Lecanemab, however, has a negligible impact on people’s daily lives, and its relevance is up for debate.
Without a revolution in disease detection, most people would miss out on the drug’s benefits because it only works in the early stages of the disease.
Lecanemab targets the beta-amyloid, a sticky gunge that accumulates in Alzheimer’s patient’s brains.
Some view the results of this trial as a triumphant turning point in a medical field littered with failures, despair, and disappointment.
The results, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK, were “momentous.”
Prof. John Hardy, one of the pioneering scientists who proposed the idea of focusing on amyloid 30 years ago, called it “historic” and expressed hope that “Alzheimer’s therapies are starting to emerge.” We’ve had a 100% failure rate for a very long time, so the results are “a big deal,” according to Prof. Tara Spires-Jones of the University of Edinburgh.
Other medications are currently prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients to help manage their symptoms, but none of them alter the course of the illness.
Lecanemab is an engineered antibody that instructs the immune system to remove amyloid from the brain. Antibodies are made by the body to combat viruses and bacteria.
One of the distinguishing features of Alzheimer’s is the formation of amyloid plaques, which are formed when the protein amyloid collects in the spaces between neurons in the brain.
A total of 1,795 volunteers with early-stage Alzheimer’s participated in the extensive trial. Every two weeks, lecanemab infusions were administered.
The findings, which were presented at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease conference in San Francisco and reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, do not represent a magical treatment. Although the disease continued to sap people’s mental capacity, the 18 months of treatment slowed that loss by about a quarter.
Regulators in the US are already reviewing the data and will make a decision soon on whether lecanemab can be used more widely. Next year, the developers—the pharmaceutical firms Eisai and Biogen—plan to start the approval procedure in other nations.
Will it make a difference?
Regarding the effects of lecanemab in the “real world,” scientists and medical professionals disagree. Using a person’s ratings of their symptoms, the drug’s slower decline was discovered. The scale has 18 points and ranges from normal to severe dementia. Those who received the medication fared 0.45 points better.
That had a “small effect” on the illness, according to Prof. Spires-Jones, but “even though it is not dramatic, I would take it.”
It was a “modest effect… but it gives us a little bit of a foothold,” according to Dr. Susan Kohlhaas from Alzheimer’s Research UK, and the subsequent generation of medications would be superior.
There are dangers as well. Brain scans revealed a potential for brain bleeding (17%) and brain swelling (13%). 7% of those who received the medication as a whole had to stop because of side effects.
What happens after the 18-month trial is a crucial question, and the answers are still up for debate.
Patients at North Bristol NHS Trust are seen by Dr. Elizabeth Coulthard, who says that once mild cognitive impairment begins, people can live independently for an average of six years.
As the “biggest health crisis we face in the UK,” Kate Lee, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society charity, called for a 10-year government strategy on dementia.
She added that Lecanemab wouldn’t have a “huge impact” on people who already have dementia in an interview with Radio 4’s Today program. She did, however, add that it ought to “make a big difference” for coming generations.