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New drug proven to slow cognitive decline in early Alzheimer's

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New drug proven to slow cognitive decline in early Alzheimer's

A clinical trial has confirmed that antibody therapy lecanemab slows cognitive decline in patients with early stages of the disease.

Full data from the trial was published on Tuesday November 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Evidence indicated that the drug breaks down clumps of protein called beta amyloid – thought to be a key cause of dementia – in patients’ brains, slowing the decline in mental agility by 27 per cent over 18 months.

“This is the first drug that provides a real treatment option for Alzheimer patients,” said Bart De Strooper, director of the UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London (UCL). “While the clinical benefits appear somewhat limited, it can be expected that they will become more apparent over time.” 

Around six in every 10 people with dementia in the UK are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The exact cause is not yet fully understood although a number of factors are thought to increase a person's risk, including family history, untreated depression and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease. 

“There is still a long way to go before we could see lecanemab available on the NHS and we await clarity for how and when the approval process will take place in the UK, and whether regulators believe it is cost-effective,” said Dr Richard Oakley at the Alzheimer’s Society.

“We mustn’t forget that lecanemab can only be given to people with early Alzheimer’s disease who have amyloid in their brain. This means people with other types of dementia, or in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, can’t benefit from this drug.”

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