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New drug marks major milestone in slowing Alzhemier’s

Photo by Devoted Guardians.

A new drug is marking a major milestone in slowing the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease. The drug, Lecanemab, reduces memory decline in Alzheimer’s patients, as shown in its recent trial.

Lecanemab is given to patients every two weeks. The drug clears a protein called amyloid, that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Amyloid is believed to be a key cause of the disease.

Alzheimer’s patients are currently given other drugs to help manage their symptoms. However, none of these drugs change the trajectory of the disease.

In a trial for the new Lecanemab drug, a total of 1,795 volunteers with early stage Alzheimer’s were given the drug every two weeks.

Data on the trial, published at a conference in San Francisco, have created immense hope in many scientists. The results showed that Lecanemab slowed the decline in memory and mental agility by 27% in patients with mild Alzheimer’s.

The slower decline with the drug was noticed using ratings of a person’s symptoms on an 18 point scale, ranging from normal to severe dementia. Patients receiving the drug were 0.45 points better off than those without it. The average score for a patient’s disease had worsened by 1.66. For people receiving Lacanemab, the score was 1.21, a 27% slowing.

UK Professor Tara Spires-Jones said this was a small impact. Still, she noted that the results were “a big deal because we’ve had a 100% failure rate for a long time,” BBC reported.

But Lecanemab has some side effects. One in eight patients given Lecanemab suffered brain swelling and other changes, probably as a result of removing the amyloid protein. However, most evidence of these issues was only clear on brain scans. Fewer than one in 30 had actual symptoms such as headaches or confusion.

There is also still speculation on what will happen to the patients after 18 months of the trial.

One NHS doctor in the UK said that people people have six years to live independently once mild cognitive impairment starts. Dr. Elizabeth Coulthard said that slowing this decline by a quarter could equate to an extra 19 months of an independent life, although this has not yet been confirmed.

The drug has to be given at the early stages of Alzheimer’s, before too much damage is done. This requires people coming to get amyloid tests from doctors. At the moment only 1-2% of people with dementia have such tests.

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.