New Alzheimer’s Drugs – What You Should Know

Scientists have been working on a breakthrough to treat Alzheimer’s, and their decades of research may be coming to fruition. The Food and Drug Administrative recently approved Leqembi (lecanemab-irmb). The drug isn’t a cure, but studies show that it could slow cognitive decline for a period of up to 12 to 18 months for people with mild cognitive decline or early Alzheimer’s.

Greg Jicha, M.D., Ph.D., who has been studying the drug for more than a decade at The University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, explains how it works.Old man sitting at a table with serious face expression

“We know that in Alzheimer’s disease, the process begins with a buildup of amyloid that forms plaques in the brain. That is followed by the development of neurofibrillary tangles, then the nerve cells die, and we start to have memory problems. At the heart of this is this early buildup of amyloid,” Jicha explains.

Researchers believe that eliminating amyloid may stop or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The drug Jicha’s team developed binds to the amyloid and allows the brain to remove it. Over time, participants in the study had a 27% to 40% slowing of the disease process.

Right now, the drug is delivered intravenously through an infusion that takes about one hour every two weeks. That schedule could be a detriment to getting Leqembi to everyone who may benefit from it. At the same time, the drug may not be the best solution for everyone, something the FDA acknowledged in its fast-tracked approval of the drug. Labeling indicates Leqembi is most appropriate for patients with mild cognitive impairment or who are in the early stage of the disease.

Medicare has announced that it will cover the new drug, but patients should still expect to see some out-of-pocket costs for Leqembi, which costs more than $26,500 a year.

Critics of Leqembi point to data in the clinical studies that show only 20 black people were given the drug in clinical trials, not enough to produce reliable data. Other data shows the treatment may not be as effective for women as it is for men. More clinical trials are underway to help doctors and patients understand the risks and rewards of Leqembi.

Still, it’s worth celebrating a concrete step forward in the decades-long fight against Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects more than 6 million Americans. And it’s not the only one! Yet another drug appears to be coming down the pipeline. In a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, drug maker Eli Lilly reported that its drug donanemab slows down Alzheimer’s at least as well as Leqembi, if not more. More study is needed before the FDA will weigh in on approval later this year.

It’s an exciting time for Alzheimer’s patients, researchers, and advocates who have worked a long time to see this progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s, and a good reason for optimism in the future.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise

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