New Alzheimer's drug Lecanemab hailed as ‘historic’ but questions remain about side effects and impact of use

30 November 2022, 07:42

The drug has been shown to be effective in patients with mild alzheimer's
The drug has been shown to be effective in patients with mild alzheimer's. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Experts have hailed the 'historic' arrival of a new Alzheimer's drug that reduces memory decline among patients with early stages of the disease.

Lecanemab, which is designed to target and clear amyloid - one of the proteins that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer's - was found to slow decline in patients' memory and thinking.

Scientists found that after 18 months the drug slowed the disease progression by 27% compared with patients taking the placebo.

Full results from the study have since been published in The New England Journal of Medicine, with experts hailing it as long-awaited proof that Alzheimer's disease can be treated.

Read more: UK heading for 'big, big shortages' of turkeys at Christmas after 'worst-ever bird flu outbreak'

Read more: White Britons are a minority in the UK's two largest cities, new figures show

"This trial is an important first step, and I truly believe it represents the beginning of the end," said Professor John Hardy, group leader at the UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London.

"The amyloid theory has been around for 30 years so this has been a long time coming.

"It's fantastic to receive this confirmation that we've been on the right track all along, as these results convincingly demonstrate, for the first time, the link between removing amyloid and slowing the progress of Alzheimer's disease.

"The first step is the hardest, and we now know exactly what we need to do to develop effective drugs. It's exciting to think that future work will build on this, and we will soon have life-changing treatments to tackle this disease."

Prof Bart De Strooper, director at the institute, added: "The overall conclusion is extremely positive. This trial proves that Alzheimer's disease can be treated."

Prof Nick Fox, director of the Dementia Research Centre, said: "I believe, it confirms a new era of disease modification for Alzheimer's disease.

"An era that comes after more that 20 years of hard work on anti-amyloid immunotherapies - by many many people - and many disappointments along the way."

Dr Richard Oakley, associate director of research at Alzheimer's Society, said the results had the potential to be "game-changing".

"They give us hope that in the future people with early Alzheimer's disease could have more time with their loved ones," he said.

However, experts warned that UK officials have much to do to prepare to deliver the drug, provided it gets regulatory approval.

There are two ways to tell whether there is amyloid on the brain - a brain scan or biomarker test which is currently done through lumbar puncture.

While a blood test is on the horizon, dementia services must rely on current tests which are expensive and can have big waiting lists.

Private patients and those living near to big dementia services can access these diagnostic tests, but the vast majority of the public cannot, experts said.

They warned that unless there are big changes in diagnostic services, people could become ineligible for lecanemab treatment while on the waiting list for diagnosis because it can only be given to patients with mild disease - if their disease progresses to a moderate stage while on the waiting list, they will no longer be eligible for treatment.

Prof De Strooper said: "The participants of this trial were all people with very early-stage Alzheimer's disease, which raises the question of how we ensure that people can access these drugs at the right stage in their disease course.

"In parallel, we must focus on making early diagnosis easier and more accessible, so that treatments can be administered when they are most likely to have a positive impact, before amyloid levels are too high and start to cause damage to the brain."

Experts also stressed that more work still needed to be done to investigate the drug's side effects.

"The trial results have shown us that there is a risk of side effects, including brain bleeds in a small number of cases," Prof Hardy said.

"This doesn't mean the drug can't be administered, but that will be important to have rigorous safety monitoring in place for people receiving lecanemab, and further trials to fully understand and mitigate this risk."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

The granddaughter of Elvis Presley is fighting plans to publicly auction his Graceland estate in Memphis

Elvis Presley’s granddaughter fights company’s attempt to sell Graceland estate

Elon Musk

Tesla shareholders ask investors to vote against Musk’s compensation package

Mourners gather around a truck carrying coffins of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions who were killed in a helicopter crash

Mourners begin days of funerals for Iran’s president killed in helicopter crash

British pensioner, 73, dead after 'heart attack' when London-Singapore flight plummeted during severe turbulence

British pensioner, 73, dead after 'heart attack' when London-Singapore flight plummeted during severe turbulence

German’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock speaks to Ukrainian energy minister Herman Halushchenko on a visit to a thermal power plant which was destroyed by a Russian rocket attack in Ukraine

Germany’s foreign minister visits Kyiv as Ukraine battles Russian offensive

England's Euro 2024 squad has been revealed in full

Rashford and Henderson to miss out on Euro 2024 as England squad unveiled by Gareth Southgate

One passenger died and several people were injured after the flight experience severe turbulence

'The plane just dropped': Passengers tell of terror as flight plunges in ‘severe turbulence’ leaving one dead

Angeline Mahal, aged in her 50s, was attacked in her Hornchurch home.

Woman mauled to death by her 2 XL Bully dogs pictured - as it emerges her family ‘begged to get rid of them’

Syria’s first lady Asma Assad, second left, with her husband Syrian President Bashar Assad

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s wife, Asma Assad, diagnosed with leukaemia

London theatre sparks row with 50k-a-year job ad encouraging applicants from ‘global majority’ and ‘criminal class’

London theatre sparks row with 50k-a-year job ad encouraging applicants from ‘global majority’ and ‘criminal class’

Exclusive
Sadiq Khan dismisses Gove’s antisemitism warning as ‘flowery rhetoric’ - but agrees protest chant should stop

Sadiq Khan dismisses Gove’s antisemitism warning as ‘flowery rhetoric’ - but agrees protest chant should stop

French President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron to visit violence-hit New Caledonia

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel aims to contain fallout from arrest warrant request backed by some allies

Liverpool is giving Ms Swift a proper Scouse welcome

Taylor Swift to get proper Scouse welcome as city transforms into 'Taylor Town' as Eras Tour comes to Anfield Stadium

One of nine Egyptians, who was on trial for migrant smuggling, waves to the media as he leaves the court in Kalamata

Greek judge dismisses case against Egyptians accused over migrant ship disaster

One person has died and several people are injured after the flight experience severe turbulence

One dead and 30 injured as flight from London to Singapore plunges 7,000 feet in ‘severe turbulence’