Breakthrough Alzheimer’s Drug Donanemab Shows Promise in Slowing Cognitive Decline, Signaling a New Era of Treatment

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In a major breakthrough, a new drug called donanemab is being hailed as a turning point in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, as a global trial confirms its ability to slow cognitive decline. This antibody medicine targets a protein that accumulates in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s, offering hope for treatment in the early stages of the disease.

While not a cure, the results of the trial, published in the journal JAMA, have sparked optimism among charities and experts, marking a new era where Alzheimer’s can be effectively treated. The drug is currently under assessment by the UK’s drugs watchdog for potential use within the National Health Service (NHS).

Donanemab specifically works against Alzheimer’s disease and not other forms of dementia, such as vascular dementia. The trial demonstrated that the drug slowed the progression of the disease by approximately one-third, allowing patients to maintain a higher level of cognitive function in their day-to-day lives, including performing tasks like meal preparation and engaging in hobbies.

Mike Colley, an 80-year-old participant in the global trial, spoke exclusively with the BBC about his experience. He receives monthly infusions of the drug at a London clinic and considers himself fortunate to have the opportunity. Mike and his family noticed his memory and decision-making difficulties shortly before he joined the trial. While his son, Mark, found it initially challenging to witness his father’s struggles, he now believes the decline has reached a plateau.

Describing his experience, Mike, who resides in Kent, expressed increasing confidence each day. He is among a small number of patients in the UK taking part in the global trial.

Donanemab, developed by Eli Lilly, functions similarly to lecanemab, another drug created by Eisai and Biogen, which previously made headlines worldwide for its proven ability to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Despite their promise, these drugs are not without risks.

During the donanemab trial, brain swelling emerged as a common side effect in up to a third of patients. However, for the majority, this swelling resolved without causing symptoms. Regrettably, two participants, and possibly a third, experienced fatal brain swelling, highlighting the potential dangers associated with these treatments.

European regulators recently rejected another antibody-based Alzheimer’s drug called aducanumab due to concerns over safety and a lack of evidence regarding its efficacy for patients.

The development of donanemab and similar drugs offers a ray of hope for millions affected by Alzheimer’s disease, raising expectations for improved treatment options in the near future. However, further research and evaluation are necessary to fully understand the risks and benefits associated with these medications.

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