New study shows drug a promising development in dementia fight


Dementia and Alzheimer’s research
A major clinical trial of a new Alzheimer’s drug has shown it is able to slow the progression of symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease.

Although not a cure, the trial has been welcomed by experts. It has provided hope that one day there might more more options in the fight against the progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions.

The drug Donanemab, developed by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, works by inducing antibodies designed to attach to and remove amyloid plaques from the brain.

The results from the randomized clinical trial that included 1736 participants with early symptomatic Alzheimer disease found it modestly slowed the worsening of memory and thinking and worked better in patients at earlier stages.

The results indicated early diagnosis is key and provides a better chance of slowing cognitive decline.

The results were published in a leading international journal and presented the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam.

Encouraging results

Chair of Dementia Curtin University and Dementia Australia, Professor Blossom Stephan, said the results of the trial were encouraging.

“The trial found that for participants with mild cognitive impairment and mild dementia, donanemab slowed cognitive decline by up to 35 per cent which is very promising,” Professor Stephan said.

“This research also highlights the need to ensure that healthcare services are equipped to deliver the intervention as well as make sure that access to treatment is equitable and available to everyone.”

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said this drug was an exciting new development and another step forward in expanding the number of treatments for dementia.

“These results provide much needed hope for people who are developing symptoms, have mild cognitive impairment or who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” Ms McCabe said.

“With dementia the second leading cause of death of Australians, and the leading cause of death of Australian women, we welcome any steps taken towards improving the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers.

“This research also highlights the importance of early diagnosis so people can access treatment and support as soon as possible.

“We need to raise awareness and understanding of dementia to reduce discrimination and stigma so we can ensure people with concerns about their cognition are seeking information and support as early as possible.

“We know the earlier people access support and services the better their health, care and lifestyle outcomes.

“Donanemab will need to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use in Australia. It also comes with possible side effects that need to be carefully monitored by health professionals.

‘Ray of hope’

Dementia Australia Dementia Advocate Bill Yeates, who was diagnosed with younger-onset-dementia in 2019, said the results were remarkable.

“This demonstrates that it is possible to significantly slow down the rate of cognitive decline through the removal of amyloid beta (plaques) from the brain,” Mr Yeates said.

“For me it’s that ‘ray of hope’ that I believed would happen one day, where people living with dementia can have a future. One where you can lead a better life, one that you value.”


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