A revolutionary new treatment for Alzheimer’s was announced this week and has been described as offering hope to millions of people struggling with the disease. We take a look behind the headlines to examine the evidence.
The drug is called Aducanumab and clinical trials have been so promising that it’s already been hailed a potential game changer. Even the notoriously cautious scientific community can’t hide its excitement, describing the treatment as ‘ingenious’ with ‘tantalising results.’ One doctor in the US said it was the best news in his 25-year career.
It’s easy to see why experts who’ve spent a lifetime working in the field are feeling so enthused. For Aducanumab tackles the underlying damage in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s in a totally different way to other existing treatments which work to ease symptoms of the disease, and have limited effect. In fact, despite substantial financial investment, no new drug treatments have been introduced for more than ten years.
So how does it work? Aducanumab contains an antibody which homes in on amyloid, the protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer’s. Early stage clinical trials have been shown to visibly eliminate nearly 100 per cent of the amyloid plaques in the brain of participating Alzheimer’s patients, effectively stopping the disease in its steps.
However, it’s important to remember that the trials so far have been small, involving less than 200 people and results of small trials are not always reliable. More proof of the drug’s effectiveness is undoubtedly needed before people currently living with Alzheimer’s raise their hopes up too much. With this in mind, bigger trials involving 2,700 people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s are now underway in the UK and will be completed in 2020.
Until these results are known and the drug is deemed safe, Aducanumab remains an exciting development, but no more than that.
Unforgettable founder James Ashwell adds:
‘Aducanumab certainly sounds very promising and could well become a drug treatment of the future for Alzheimer’s, which is fantastic news. But it’s still very early days, and let’s not forget that Alzheimer’s is only one form of dementia – there are 200 types of dementia. Most experts in the field tell me we are twenty years off finding a cure for dementia. Whilst I’m sure we all hope they’re wrong, I do worry that news stories like this might over-simplify what’s actually going on, and cause people currently living with dementia and their families to have their hopes raised, and then dashed.’