Another potential medication that researchers say may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s shows promise, according to study results that were released at an international conference focused on the devastating disease.
An experimental drug, called donanemab, was shown in a phase 3 clinical trial to significantly slow the loss of thinking and memory skills in people with early Alzheimer’s, with the greatest benefits seen among those in the earliest stages of the disease.
The medication also helped to remove a protein called amyloid from the brain, which is a defining feature of Alzheimer’s. In people with the disease, amyloid clumps together to form sticky plaques that disrupt normal cell function.
While not a cure, experts say delaying the more severe stages of Alzheimer’s, which affects more than 6.5 million Americans, can help preserve a person’s level of functioning for longer. This can be particularly helpful for those who are still able to work, pay bills and engage with others, as is the case for many individuals with early Alzheimer’s.
"These benefits are real and meaningful, giving people more time to participate in daily life, remain independent and make future health care decisions,” Maria C. Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement.
Researchers leading the 18-month-long trial found that Alzheimer’s symptoms did not worsen after a year of treatment for nearly half of participants who received donanemab, compared with 29 percent who received a placebo. The study results also suggest that people may not need the treatment indefinitely; patients in the study were taken off the drug once a certain amount of amyloid was removed from the brain.
The clinical trial results for donanemab were presented at the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on July 17 and published in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA.