The New York Times had an article on a new medication that works to treat Alzheimer’s dementia. For the first time in a large clinical trial, a drug was able to both reduce the plaques in the brains of patients and slow the progression of dementia. The drug may be the first to successfully attack both the brain changes and the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The results were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago.
“This trial shows you can both clear plaque and change cognition,” said Dr. Reisa Sperling, director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the study. “I don’t know that we’ve hit a home run yet. It’s important not to over-conclude on the data. But as a proof of concept, I feel like this is very encouraging.”
Aside from a couple of medications that can slow memory decline for a few months, there is no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, which affects about 44 million people worldwide, including 5.5 million Americans. It is estimated that those numbers will triple by 2050.
In the data presented, the highest of the five doses of the new drug — an injection every two weeks of 10 milligrams per kilogram of a patient’s weight — both reduced amyloid levels and slowed cognitive decline when compared to patients who received placebo.
Of the 161 patients in the group taking the highest dose, 81 percent showed such significant drops in amyloid levels that they “converted from amyloid positive to amyloid negative,” Dr. Kramer said in an interview, meaning that the patients’ amyloid levels dropped from being considered high enough to correlate to dementia to a level below that dementia threshold.
And on a battery of cognitive and functional tests measuring memory and skills like planning and reasoning, the performance of the high-dose group declined at a rate that was 30 percent slower than the rate of decline in the placebo group.