New drug shows promise for Alzheimer’s patients

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 1:32 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A new Alzheimer’s drug is showing hope for patients battling the illness. If approved by the FDA, it would be the second drug on the market that slows the progression of the disease instead of just treating the symptoms.

Alex Barclay is one of many people excited about the potential of the drug. His mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010 and battled the illness for 10 years before it took her life.

“The hardest part of this disease and other diseases is the feeling of helplessness,” Barclay said. “All you can do is sit there and watch your loved ones suffer.”

Last year he cycled 255 miles for the Ride to End Alzheimer’s. It raises money for the Alzheimer’s association. He hopes other families don’t have to endure what he did. It’s why he is excited about the potential of the new drug called lecanemab. It’s not a cure but could delay cognitive decline.

“It gives people hope for a longer life and more time with their family,” Barclay said.

The results of phase three clinical trials were just released. This is usually the last step before a drug is approved by the FDA. Prisma Health neurologist Dr. John Absher says in an 18-month study the drug slowed cognitive decline by 27%.

“The other way it was positive is that it reduced biomarkers, which is the amount of amyloid in the brain,” Dr. Absher said.

Absher says patients with Alzheimer’s often have amyloids that build up in the brain. These proteins can block neurons and disrupt cell function. This drug targets those amyloids and reduces the build-up. But the amyloid-blocking drug can also have side effects like brain swelling or brain bleeds.

“Since the antibody attacks amyloid and there are clumps of amyloid in the brain, your brain is at risk for this immune attack,” Absher said. “Amyloids can also get stuck in the walls of the blood vessels that can cause the walls of the brain to bleed.”

Absher says brain swelling and bleeding also happened in patients who were on the placebo so it’s hard to quantify how worrisome the side effects are. There has also been some worry about patients who died in the study. Two of the deaths were patients on blood thinners. Absher cited a quote directly from the New England Journal of Medicine study and says authors argue those deaths are not related to the drug.

“Deaths occurred in 0.7% of the participants in the lecanemab group and 0.8% of those in the placebo group,” NEJM reported. “No deaths were considered by the investigators to be related to lecanemab or occurred with ARIA.”