Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Study Shows Promising Results for Potential Alzheimer’s Treatment

Older Americans could soon have access to another disease-delaying medication

spinner image scan of a brain that is showing signs of alzheimers disease
Alamy Stock Photo

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.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership

Join AARP for $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal. Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine

Join Now

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.

FDA approval could come this year

The drug’s manufacturer, Eli Lilly, said it is seeking full, traditional approval for donanemab from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with a decision expected by the end of the year.

Until recently, the only Alzheimer’s drugs with full FDA approval were medications that help to alleviate some of the disease’s symptoms, not disrupt its course. On July 6, however, the FDA issued its first full approval for a similar amyloid-clearing treatment, called Leqembi (lecanemab), which in studies was able to slow the rate of Alzheimer’s disease progression in individuals in the early to mild disease stages. Another anti-amyloid therapy called Aduhelm (aducanumab) received what’s known as accelerated approval from the FDA in 2021 but has not received traditional approval.

Health & Wellness

Target Optical

Savings on eye exams and eyewear at national retailers

See more Health & Wellness offers >

Like Leqembi, donanemab is a monoclonal antibody given by infusion. Side effects reported in the donanemab trial were similar to those seen with Leqembi, with swelling and bleeding in the brain being the chief concerns. Often these events are small, temporary and asymptomatic, but larger bleeds can occur and can be serious, even fatal.

Even as the FDA decides whether to approve this latest medication, the search for effective Alzheimer’s treatments continues. Howard Fillit, M.D., cofounder and chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, said in a statement that the latest amyloid-attacking drugs are “just a start,” and that “we must continue advancing the drug pipeline to develop the next class of drugs centered around the biology of aging to ultimately stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks.” 

Hundreds of potential treatments are being studied, and many have targets other than amyloid.

“Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are complex disorders, caused by a constellation of overlapping and intertwined chains of biochemical reactions that wreck the brain,” Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging, said in a statement. “Successfully treating each individual’s dementia will likely require a diverse set of preventative and diagnostic therapies. The data reported in these donanemab and lecanemab studies suggest that anti-amyloid therapies may, at least, be the first of many other treatments.”

Video: How I Discovered I Had Early-Onset Alzheimer's

Members Only Access. Log in to continue.

Gain access to celebrity interviews, smart advice, recipes, novels, Pilates, and AARP digital magazines. With content arriving every day, there is always something new and exciting to discover with AARP Members Only Access.


Not a member?