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New Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab slows disease but divides opinions

Published on 30/11/22 at 10:42am

Japanese drugmaker Eisai and its US partner Biogen have announced that their new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease appeared to slow disease progression, however it has recently divided opinions. Lecanemab appeared to slow the disease’s worsening, however following the deaths of two patients in clinical trials, some are more skeptical about the ongoing impact of the drug.

Throughout the clinical trials, patients were given an intravenous dose of lecanemab or a placebo infusion: those treated with lecanemab appeared to decline more slowly. The drug delayed patients’ worsening by around five months, and the patients treated with the drug were 31% less likely to progress to the next stage of disease.

Dr Ron Petersen, Alzheimer’s expert at the Mayo Clinic, thought that the drug’s impact was “a modest one but I think it’s clinically meaningful,” as even a few months’ delay in disease progression is a positive for individual patients.

However, Dr Madhav Thambisetty from the National Institute on Aging, said “It is unlikely that the small difference reported in this trial will be noticeable by individual patients.”

Side effects from the drug have included swelling and bleeding of the brain. Most cases were mild or asymptomatic, however two patients have died since joining the trial, due to brain haemorrhaging. Eisai have denied that the deaths are attributable to lecanemab.

Mario Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer’s Association commented: “We all understand that this is not a cure and we’re all trying to really grasp what it means to slow Alzheimer’s because this is a first.” She continued, explaining that a delay in cognitive decline early on could be meaningful for “how much time we have with our loved ones in a stage of disease where we can still enjoy family and outings, vacations, bucket lists.”


Betsy Goodfellow

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