New Alzheimer’s Drug Slows Cognitive Decline in Early Test

March 15, 2021 – An investigational drug appears to slow cognitive decline in people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recently published study.

The drug, donanemab, is an antibody that targets and clears plaques in the brain called amyloid-beta, which are thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Compared with people in the study who received a placebo, people who received donanemab showed 32% slower cognitive decline over a year and a half, according to study results published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the 2021 International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases. People who received the investigational drug also had a greater reduction in the amount of amyloid plaques in the brain, compared to people who received the placebo.

The relatively small and early study results give “a signal … that there may be modest cognitive benefit,” said Howard Fillit, MD, neuroscientist and scientific director of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, who did was not involved in the search.


Although the study measured a slower rate of cognitive decline in people who took the experimental drug, it is not yet clear whether this slowing makes a noticeable difference for people with Alzheimer’s disease, a he said, especially since the researchers didn’t see the same benefit when they evaluated. trial participants with additional measures of cognitive ability.

“Basically it was a positive study that probably needs to be followed by another much bigger study to get us to really see the benefits,” Fillit said.

The trial was conducted at 56 sites in the United States and Canada and included 257 patients aged 60 to 85 years. The pharmaceutical company developing donanemab, Eli Lilly, funded the study.

The researchers note that additional trials following more patients for longer periods of time are needed to further determine the effectiveness and safety of donanemab in Alzheimer’s disease.

In a statement, Maria Carrillo, PhD, scientific director of the Alzheimer’s Association, said the organization “is encouraged by these promising data,” while calling for more work to evaluate the investigational drug.

“I have high hopes for the future,” Carrillo said.

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