An experimental Alzheimer’s drug outperforms one just approved by the FDA

The experimental Alzheimer’s drug donanemab slowed progression of the disease by about 35% in a recent study, outperforming the just approved drug Leqembi.

Reported findings: The study involved over 1,700 individuals and the findings suggest that donanemab is as effective, if not more, than Leqembi which has been shown to reduce progression by about 27%.
* The experimental drug has been described as “the biggest effect that’s ever been seen in an Alzheimer’s trial for a disease-modifying drug”.

Explaining the drugs: Donanemab, like Leqembi, is a monoclonal antibody designed to remove beta-amyloid, a substance which forms sticky plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, from the brain.
* The donanemab study focused on patients with early Alzheimer’s that exhibited only mild cognitive symptoms.
* The researchers found that patients with advanced stages of the disease saw less benefit from the drug, suggesting the importance of early intervention.

Administration process: The study also implies that patients might not require monthly intravenous infusions of donanemab for life.
* Once most of the plaques in their brains were gone, generally within a year, treatment was ceased and the plaques did not re-appear during the 18-month study period.
* This finding may give donanemab an edge over Leqembi which requires ongoing treatment, but the longevity of donanemab’s effects years after treatment ends remains unclear.

Safety concerns: Both donanemab and Leqembi can cause dangerous swelling or bleeding in the brain.
* In the donanemab study, brain scans revealed this side effect in approximately 25% of patients with about 6% showing related symptoms like headache, nausea, and confusion.
* Three patient deaths were reported during the study.

Not a cure: It is important to underscore that donanemab is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, but its benefits equate to about a seven-month delay in memory and cognitive loss.
* The manufacturer of donanemab, Eli Lily, has submitted the results of the study to the FDA and a decision is expected by the end of the year.

View original article on NPR

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