New drug gives hope of slowing cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients

30 Nov 2022

Image: © Atthapon/

Lecanemab appeared to slow down cognitive and functional decline in Alzheimer’s patients in a clinical trial, but there were also adverse effects noted.

An experimental drug has given hope that new forms of treatment could be possible for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug called lecanemab was shown to slow down cognitive and functional decline in Alzheimer’s patients by 27pc in a clinical trial, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Lecanemab is an antibody that targets a harmful protein called amyloid beta. This protein builds up in the brain of those with Alzheimer’s.

The potential of the drug has been hailed by some groups, with Alzheimer’s Research UK describing the findings as “momentous”.

However, there were also adverse effects noted during the phase-three clinical trial, which involved 1,795 adults with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or mild Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia.

Serious adverse effects occurred in 14pc of the participants in the lecanemab group and more than 11pc of those in the placebo group. The most common adverse events in the group that took the drug were reactions to the intravenous infusions and MRI abnormalities such as brain swelling.

Despite these adverse effects, the results of the study have been welcomed by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI). The society said there are an estimated 64,000 people with dementia in Ireland and that number is anticipated to increase to 150,000 by 2045.

ASI research and policy manager Dr Laura O’Philbin said lecanemab is the “most credible treatment option” for early Alzheimer’s disease that the world has seen “after decades of work”.

“While the clinical benefits appear small, scientifically, this is a pivotal development and brings hope to people concerned about dementia worldwide,” O’Philbin said.

The study concluded that longer trials are warranted to determine the efficacy and safety of lecanemab in early Alzheimer’s disease over time. The drug has been filed for accelerated regulatory approval from the FDA by Japanese pharma company Eisai.

But O’Philbin said there is still “a long way to go” for lecanemab to reach patients in Ireland.

“Regulatory approval and developments in our health system are needed before we might see lecanemab offered to people in Ireland,” she said. “The ASI looks forward to continuing to collaborate with our research and clinical colleagues and government representatives.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic