New drug found to slow Alzheimer’s hailed as ‘turning point’

Donanemab found to slow ‘clinical decline’ by up to 35%, meaning that people with the disease could still go about performing day-to-day tasks

A new drug has been hailed as a “turning point in the fight against Alzheimer’s” after it was found to slow the progression of the disease.

Donanemab was found to slow “clinical decline” by up to 35 per cent, meaning that people with the disease could still go about performing day-to-day tasks including shopping, housekeeping, managing finances and taking medication.

Alzheimer’s Research UK said that “we’re entering a new era where Alzheimer’s disease could become treatable”.

And the Alzheimer’s Society said that treatments like donanemab could one day mean the condition could be likened to other long-term ailments such as asthma or diabetes.


The UK charity said new treatments including donanemab – which works by removing a protein called amyloid that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s – heralds a “new era” for Alzheimer’s disease treatments.

The health spending watchdog in England is already assessing whether the drug can be used in the National Health Service (NHS).

It comes as scientists published the final results of the trial examining the safety and efficacy of the drug, manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company.

Researchers examined almost 1,800 people with early-stage Alzheimer’s, half of them received a monthly infusion of donanemab and the other half were given a dummy drug, also known as a placebo, over 18 months.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and presented to the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam, concluded that after 76 weeks of treatment, donanemab was able to slow clinical decline by 35.1 per cent in people with early Alzheimer’s whose brain scans showed low or medium levels of a protein called tau.

When the results were combined for people who had different levels of this protein, there was a 22.3 per cent slowing in disease progression.

Some 47 per cent of people taking the drug who had early-stage disease and low or medium levels of tau were found to stall the disease for a year.

Eli Lilly and Company said some people taking the drug would be able to finish the course of treatment in six months once their amyloid plaque cleared.

It said treatment with donanemab reduced amyloid plaque on average by 84 per cent at 18 months, compared with a 1 per cent decrease among people in the study who were taking the placebo drug.

But researchers did find that among a small number of people in the study there were some serious side effects such as brain swelling.

The company said it is ready to work with health regulators in the UK as well as the NHS and government on the “appropriate regulatory next steps”.

And the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said that it has already started its appraisal work on the drug.

Before Nice gives the drug the green light for NHS use, it needs to be approved by the UK medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The results come after another drug – lecanemab – was found to reduce memory decline among patients with early-stage disease.

Commenting on the results, Dr Richard Oakley, associate director of research and innovation at Alzheimer’s Society in the UK, said: “This is truly a turning point in the fight against Alzheimer’s and science is proving that it is possible to slow down the disease.

“Treatments like donanemab are the first steps towards a future where Alzheimer’s disease could be considered a long-term condition alongside diabetes or asthma – people may have to live with it, but they could have treatments that allow them to effectively manage their symptoms and continue to live fulfilled lives.”

“Just as we’ve seen a transformation in cancer treatment in recent decades, we’re really hopeful we’re on the same path for dementia.” – PA