Promising data shows that an Alzheimer’s drug can slow cognitive decline.
In a phase III clinical trial, with results published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the drug, Lecanemab — developed by Eisai and Biogen Inc. — slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 27% in patients in the early stages of the disease, making it the first drug of its kind to produce such positive trial results, the study showed.
“Lecanemab reduced markers of amyloid in early Alzheimer’s disease and resulted in less decline than placebo on all measures of cognition and function at 18 months,” said Dr. Christopher Van Dyck, director of the Yale Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, during his presentation of trial efficacy results at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease meeting, held in San Francisco.
Researchers followed nearly 1,800 patients over the course of 18 months and found the drug “resulted in moderately less decline on measures of cognition and function,” compared to patients who received a placebo.
However, the companies noted that “longer trials are warranted to determine the efficacy and safety of Lecanemab in early Alzheimer’s disease.”
Patients who have Alzheimer’s disease have build-up of two proteins, amyloid-beta and tau, in the brain. They clump together and form plaques, disrupting cell function and causing symptoms such as memory loss and confusion.
Lecanemab is a monoclonal antibody that helps remove the amyloid-beta clumps.
Trial participants were split into two groups, both with a Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB) score of about 3.2 when the trial began. This score, which measures dementia impairment, has a scale from 0 indicating no impairment to 18.0 indicating severe impairment. A score of 3.2 indicates very mild impairment.
Over the course of 18 months, patients in the Lecanemab group saw their score go up by 1.21 points in comparison with patients in the placebo group, who saw their score go up by 1.66 points.