Active Stocks
Thu Jul 11 2024 10:50:10
  1. Tata Steel share price
  2. 169.50 0.89%
  1. Power Grid Corporation Of India share price
  2. 345.85 -0.07%
  1. HDFC Bank share price
  2. 1,603.55 -1.40%
  1. NTPC share price
  2. 379.80 -0.47%
  1. Tata Motors share price
  2. 1,020.25 1.47%
Business News/ Science / Health/  An Alzheimer drug gets a boost
BackBack

An Alzheimer drug gets a boost

wsj

Lilly defied the skeptics to push ahead with donanemab. It paid off.

A closely watched Alzheimer's drug from Eli Lilly won the backing of federal health advisers on 10 June, setting the stage for the treatment's expected approval for people with mild dementia caused by the brain-robbing disease. (AP)Premium
A closely watched Alzheimer's drug from Eli Lilly won the backing of federal health advisers on 10 June, setting the stage for the treatment's expected approval for people with mild dementia caused by the brain-robbing disease. (AP)

Developing new medicines entails enormous risk and perseverance. Take Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s disease treatment donanemab, which a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Monday unanimously recommended for approval. That should grease the way for FDA approval.

Lilly has spent more than 30 years and $8 billion working on Alzheimer’s treatments. Four clinical trials with another experimental drug had failed. After one pivotal trial in 2016 disappointed, some dismissed Lilly’s strategy of targeting amyloid plaque in the brain—a signature of the disease—and urged the company to abandon its Alzheimer’s drug research.

Instead, Lilly learned from earlier trials and made a major bet on donanemab, another anti-amyloid drug. Some patients in earlier trials suffered from other forms of dementia. Advances in brain imaging enabled Lilly to accurately diagnose and screen Alzheimer’s patients for its donanemab trial. Lilly also used brain scans to track disease progression.

Donanemab clears amyloid that had built up over decades and slows decline by an average of 35% over 18 months. While such benefits are modest, the drug can extend patients’ ability to function independently by months and, possibly, years. Patients also get precious more time with loved ones.

Catching and treating Alzheimer’s early, as with many diseases, improves the prognosis. Patients in earlier stages of the disease notably showed greater benefits from the drug. Nearly half experienced no decline after one year. Among those in the earliest stage, donanemab slowed decline on average by 60%.

Donanemab’s benefits continued even after patients stopped taking the monthly infusions. Nobody wants to be on a drug for the rest of their lives, especially one that carries a small risk of brain bleeding that must be continuously monitored. The FDA panel unanimously agreed that donanemab’s benefits exceed the risks.

Scientists disagree about Alzheimer’s causes, but many believe that amyloid drives a degenerative neurological cascade, which results in brain inflammation and neuron death. Amyloid develops decades before patients show cognitive symptoms. Donanemab is the third drug to show that removing amyloid early in the disease can slow decline.

Few cancers are knocked out with a one-drug punch. A combination of medicines may be needed to arrest Alzheimer’s, which has been linked to many potential causes, including certain genes, infections, brain trauma, smoking and poor deep sleep.

If approved, donanemab will compete with the anti-amyloid lecanemab by Biogen and Eisai, which showed somewhat fewer side effects in trials. Donanemab requires an infusion only once a month compared to twice for lecanemab. Patients can weigh the risks against the benefits with their doctors and caregivers.

Meantime, artificial intelligence is accelerating the development of blood tests that can diagnose Alzheimer's and predict it years before patients show cognitive problems. This holds the promise that anti-amyloid treatments might soon be used for prevention, as statins are for heart disease.

After Lilly’s major trial ended in failure eight years ago, many scientists declared Alzheimer’s untreatable. They were wrong. Lilly shows that perseverance can pay off.

3.6 Crore Indians visited in a single day choosing us as India's undisputed platform for General Election Results. Explore the latest updates here!

Next Story footLogo
Recommended For You