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Everyone has been crying out for a drug therapy that will at least slow down the progression of dementia. Now it seems as if this could have been achieved according to news items including those in the Economist who state 'It is not perfect. And it has side effects. But it may be the real deal.' This story is about the results of a clinical trial, conducted by the manufacturers of the drug, Eisai (Tokyo) and Biogen (Cambridge, Massachusetts). They claim that Lecanemab has slowed the progress of symptoms, by a quarter.
The way that Lecanemab works is by clearing clumps of a protein called amyloid, found in patient's brains, which is thought to be a key cause of the most common type of dementia - Alzheimer's Disease.
The BBC News describes the trial results for Lecanemab as 'momentous' and a 'triumphant turning point.'
However a point to note is that the drug has to be given in the early stages of dementia before there has been too much damage to the brain. This is dependent on people presenting early with symptoms of memory loss that are more than just because they are getting older. It would also mean that they would have to be referred for amyloid tests which could be brain scans or spinal fluid collected by a procedure called a lumbar puncture where a needle is inserted to withdraw spinal fluid. At the moment only 1-2% of people where dementia is suspected have these tests.
Kate Lee the Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Society, speaking on Radio 4's Today programme said that Lecanemab should 'make a big difference' for future generations but would not have a 'huge impact' on those who are already living with dementia.
It's not a cure but it appears it can slow the progression of Alzheimer's Disease. It's worth remembering as well that although Alzheimer's Disease is the most common type of dementia there are well over 100 other dementias which this drug will not have any impact on.