At stake is a drug that has been successful in delaying cognitive decline in the early stages of the disease
Many consider the disease to be Alzheimer’s the next pandemic, and so far no medicine has seemed to slow the disease. But an experimental drug has succeeded in delaying cognitive decline at an early stage of the disease, according to Reuters. However, there are still questions regarding the side effects of this drug, called Lecanemab.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of madness and, if these results are confirmed, we can enter a new era in the fight against disease – which gives hope for new therapies. It’s even considered the biggest breakthrough of the last 30 years.
Eisai Pharmaceuticals and Biogen are responsible for the experimental drug – which clinical data revealed on Tuesday can cause serious side effects in some patients.
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have plaques of proteins called amyloids that form around their neurons and eventually destroy them. Lecanemab is able to attack these amyloid plaques in the brain.
Currently, patients with Alzheimer’s disease are treated with medications that help manage symptoms, but none have been able to alter the course of the disease.
Lecanemab is an antibody, like those produced by the body when it attacks viruses or bacteria, that is “designed” to tell the immune system to clear protein plaques.
Although the discovery is considered a victory, there are some questions regarding the potential side effects. Charles Marshall, from Queen Mary University of London, has already warned that some have been detected, “including inflammation and bleeding in the brain”.
The risks are real. 17% of clinical trial participants revealed a risk of cerebral hemorrhage and 13% of cerebral inflammation. About 7% of the volunteers even had to abandon the treatment due to side effects, writes the BBC.
The deaths of two clinical trial volunteers have raised questions about the drug – they are a 65-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man. But the pharmaceutical company Eisai denies that the situations are linked to the use of Lecanemab.
In an interview with Reuters, the company’s North American director, Ivan Cheung, defended that the two deaths “cannot be attributed to Lecanemab” and that the company has active protocols to monitor for possible cerebral edema.
“A great victory”
Last September, pharmaceutical companies had already revealed that treatment with Lecanemab reduced by 27% cognitive decline in patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, according to preliminary results of clinical trials with nearly 1,800 people that lasted about 18 months.
Later this week, the release of the final results of this investigation is expected, at an Alzheimer’s conference, in San Francisco, in the United States – when, according to Reuters, authorization for the United States should also be sought. The response from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug regulatory body in the United States, regarding the possible use of the drug must be given by January 6, 2023.
Other pharmaceutical laboratories had already tried to follow the same line of investigation but never with results at this level. Even if this treatment does not lead to a cure, the fact that it “slows down cognitive decline – and thus preserves the ability to carry out normal daily activities – is already a great gain”, underlined Tara Spires-Jones, of the University of Edinburgh in September, when the first results were known.
According to the BBCTara Spiers-Jones also said that it “was a big win because the failure rate of the tests carried out so far was 100%”