Experimental Alzheimer’s drug slows cognitive decline, study shows

Pharmaceutical companies Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. said Tuesday that their experimental drug, lecanemab, helped slow cognitive decline for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Results of the large, late-stage clinical trial have not yet been peer-reviewed, but the companies issued a news release Tuesday stating that the phase 3 trial of lecanemab slowed cognitive decline by 27% after 18 months, NBC News reported.

The study enrolled nearly 1,800 participants with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease, the companies said.

Per The New York Times: “The positive data also offer Biogen a second chance after the company’s disastrous rollout of another Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm. That medication won regulatory approval last year despite little evidence that it could slow cognitive decline, received only sharply limited coverage by Medicare and has proved to be a commercial failure.”

Although Eisai led both lecanemab’s development and its phase 3 trial, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biogen partnered with the Japanese drugmaker in the commercialization of the new drug, according to NBC News.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ronald Petersen, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told the network that the trial’s results should be interpreted cautiously because they represent only a “first step in the direction of making a significant impact on the disease.”

While lecanemab’s development is being championed for potentially slowing the progression of a leading cause of dementia, there are no indications from the clinical trial that the drug in any way restores mental capacity or stops the progressively degenerative disease, Bloomberg reported.

“This is clearly not a magic bullet,” John Hardy, a professor of neuroscience at University College London, told Bloomberg, adding, “But it looks like a definite ‘end of the beginning.’”

According to the Times, the lecanemab trial was the largest to date to test whether clearing the brain of plaques formed by the accumulation of a protein called amyloid could slow Alzheimer’s progression. In turn, the Alzheimer’s Society called the trial’s results potentially “game-changing.”

In turn, the results raise hope for other anti-amyloid drugs currently in development, especially medicines in final-stage trials such as Lilly’s donanemab. Meanwhile, Roche plans to release data from two key studies on its candidate, gantenerumab, during a November conference, Bloomberg reported.