Pharma companies Biogen and Eisai have claimed that their Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab works to prevent progression of the disease if used in the initial stages. Even though the details are not all out yet, it seems to slow down the damage caused to the brain.
Lecanemab is intended to eliminate clumps of lethal beta-amyloid proteins that are gathered in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients while numerous other drug trials were unsuccessful in this regard.
1,795 early-stage Alzheimer’s patients volunteered for the trial, and were given lecanemab fortnightly and had their mental agility as well as memory tested frequently.
According to the pharma companies, in the trial that lasted 1.5 years, the patients’ cognitive decline had slowed down by 27% compared to the patients who were given placebo treatment. Results also revealed a reduced level of toxic protein in the brain. Headaches and swelling of the brain were the side effects.
It was stated by the company that the drug only works for Alzheimer’s and not other types of dementia. The companies plan to share the results with medical regulators keeping in view their application for market approval before March end.
“Today’s announcement gives patients and their families hope that lecanemab, if approved, can potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and provide a clinically meaningful impact on cognition and function,” said Michel Vounatsos, the CEO of Biogen.
Eisai and Biogen are applying for regulatory approval for use in Europe, the United States, and Japan.
Dr. Susan Kohlhaas from Alzheimer’s Research UK labeled it a historic moment and a breakthrough as it was the first large successful clinical trial in a generation for the disease according to her. She also said that it is the first drug that has gone one step ahead of hindering the build-up of amyloid protein in the brain by also having a positive impact on the decline of cognitive function in early-stage patients.
Both companies had announced a much-anticipated drug called aducanumab prior to this, for the same disease but this therapy was met with criticism and the EU did not approve the drug. However, it is different this time around as the results seem more promising, even though the full details are not expected before November.
The phase III trial results were conveyed by Eisai, the Japanese pharma company that worked with Biogen in the development of the Alzheimer’s drug. Dr. Kohlhaas believes that upon approval, it is vital to make the drug available to patients as soon as possible.
Among other experts who showed excitement over the breakthrough was Dr. Richard Oakley of the Alzheimer’s society who labeled the drug a “game-changer”. Old age psychiatry professor Rob Howard expressed appreciation and said that a groundbreaking discovery in Alzheimer’s was long-awaited.
A 2019 report revealed that among other forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s impacts about 900,000 people in the United Kingdom alone. The cost of care for diseased patients in the United Kingdom costs just under £35B annually.