The New York Times had an interesting article on a new study regarding an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease which sharply slowed the decline in mental function in a small clinical trial, researchers reported, reviving hopes for an approach to therapy that until now has experienced repeated failures.  Experts say that there are no really good drugs now to treat Alzheimer’s.

The drug, called aducanumab, met and in some cases greatly exceeded expectations in terms of how much the highest dose slowed cognitive decline. Aducanumab, which until now has been called BIIB037, is designed to get rid of amyloid plaque in the brain, which is widely believed to be a cause of the dementia in Alzheimer’s disease.  However, there was a high incidence of a particular side effect that might make it difficult to use the highest dose. A major side effect was a localized swelling in the brain, known as A.R.I.A.-E. This has been seen with other drugs in this class, though the rate for aducanumab seems higher.

 Alzheimer’s experts were impressed, but they cautioned that it was difficult to read much from a small early-stage, or Phase 1, trial that was designed to look at safety, not the effect on cognition. Some analysts said they would have been impressed if the drug had slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 20 or 30 percent. But the actual reduction for the high dose was above 70 percent. They said the drug’s effect was stronger than that of Lilly’s drug.  Also, other Alzheimer’s drugs that had looked promising in early studies ended up not working in larger trials.

The results were presented in Nice, France, at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases and Related Neurological Disorders.

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