Promising drug results

An Alzheimer’s drug from the Japanese pharmaceutical firm Eisai has been shown to slow down patients’ decline in memory, thinking and function in the final stage of trials.

The drug, called lecanemab, demonstrated promising results in a phase 3 trial and works by removing Alzheimer’s trademark amyloid protein from the brain.

Early results indicated that things like memory, orientation, judgement and problem-solving deteriorated 27% more slowly in those taking the drug compared with those who weren’t.  The trial, called CLARITY AD, involved 1,795 people with either mild Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment.

But some participants have had severe side effects.  The main one is called ARIA, “amyloid-related imaging abnormalities”, which result in swelling or bleeding in the brain.  Just over one in five participants experienced this.

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, it remains to be seen whether the benefits of the treatment last longer than 18 months.  “The benefits of taking lecanemab in the trial were modest, but the challenge and opportunity remains within dementia research to build on these findings into an era where we’re developing multiple treatments against different aspects of Alzheimer’s disease to slow and stop the disease,” said ARUK director of research Dr Susan Kohlhaas.

“It’s safe to say that the NHS is not ready for a new era of dementia treatment. We estimate that unless there are drastic changes in how people access specialist diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease, only 2% of people eligible for drugs like lecanemab will be able to access them.

”We recommend, through the new Dementia Mission, the government take urgent steps to bring together regulators, industry, clinicians and decision-makers in our health system to put a clear plan in place to ensure people in the UK are among the first in the world to access new treatments once they are licensed.”

Results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.