A new drug could signal the “beginning of a treatment age for Alzheimer’s”, according to Professor Luke O’Neill.
A new study from drug drug-maker Eli Lily suggests that its new drug donanemab can reduce the rate of cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s by between 27% and 35%.
It also found that patients given the drug were better able to maintain normal daily activities than those without it.
On The Pat Kenny Show, Trinity Professor Luke O’Neill said scientists are now “really optimistic” about the future of Alzheimer’s treatment.
“For years we’ve known that a thing called beta-amyloid - a protein - builds up in your brain and clogs the hippocampus, where your memories are,” he said.
“That clogging destroys the hippocampus and then your memory goes because the hippocampus is where your memories are stored.
“So, the idea was to clear the plaque and you might see a therapeutic effect.
“Now two separate companies have an antibody, made in the lab, that can mop up the plaque like a sponge and then clear the hippocampus of this stuff and therefor you don’t see the same level of damage.”
Prof O’Neill said the drug trials showed 35% less decline in patient’s ability to do things like manage their finances, drive and discuss current affairs.
“It’s not 100% remember,” he said. “We would love it to be higher but it’s a bit like fingertips on a cliff face territory here.
“In the UK now they are all saying this is the beginning of a treatment age for Alzheimer’s.”
Prof O’Neill warned that it is still unclear whether the drug can treat damage that has already been done by the disease.
“People listening with Alzheimer’s now, it may not work in those people sadly – although you never know,” he said.
“They will try it now with various patient groups.
“They have a drug now that seems to work and now let’s try it across the board and see what happens – you never know.”
He said any improvement in Alzheimer’s treatment could save a huge amount of money.
"It’s a frightening prospect because, given that we’re all living longer, Alzheimer’s will become a huge epidemic in a way,” he said.
“So, we need something now almost, because as soon as we can get new therapies the better.
“It is very expensive, Alzheimer’s, for the health system because people are in homes and all the rest.
“If this slows that down, even though it might be expensive as a drug, you’ll save money.”
Today’s study comes six months after drug firm Esai positive results for its Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab.
Lecanemab was approved by the US drug regulator in January. A decision in Europe is expected in 2024.
Regulators will make a decision on this donanemab once full trial data has been released later this year.