Hopes of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s – the most common cause of dementia – is one step closer thanks to the arrival of a new drug. The drug – aducanumab – has been given the green light in the US. “The expectation and hope is that the EU will approve it in due course,” said Dr Hilary on ITV’s Lorraine on Tuesday.
As Dr Hilary explained, the drug “targets the cause of dementia instead of easing the existing symptoms.”
The development strengthens the fight against dementia but there are a couple of caveats to consider.
According to Dr Hilary, the extent to which the drug slows down memory loss is mooted.
Trial results have been conflicted. In March 2019, late-stage international trials of aducanumab, involving about 3,000 patients, were halted when analysis showed the drug, given as a monthly infusion, was not better at slowing the deterioration of memory and thinking problems than a dummy drug.
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But later that year, the US manufacturer Biogen analysed more data and concluded the drug did work, but it was dose-dependant.
The company also said it significantly slowed cognitive decline.
According to Dr Hilary, the only caveat is price. It is very costly to produce.
The worry is that these factors will hold up the drug’s approval by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the UK’s independent advisory committee, he said.
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How does the drug work?
Aducanumab targets amyloid, a protein that forms abnormal clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s that can damage cells and trigger dementia.
Targeting amyloid can bolster some of the brain’s defences against brain decline, thereby slowing symptoms such as memoy loss.
Commenting on its approval in the US, Dr Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said: “The clinical trials for Aduhelm were the first to show that a reduction in these plaques-a hallmark finding in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s-is expected to lead to a reduction in the clinical decline of this devastating form of dementia.”
The treatment approval could lead the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to give it the go-ahead in Britain.
Dementia symptoms – what to look for
It’s normal for your memory to be affected by stress, tiredness, certain illnesses and medicines.
“But if you’re becoming increasingly forgetful, particularly if you’re over the age of 65, it’s a good idea to talk to a GP about the early signs of dementia,” explains the NHS.
It is important to note that dementia is not only about memory loss.
“It can also affect the way you speak, think, feel and behave,” explains the NHS.
How to reduce your risk of dementia
Although getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia, evidence shows there are things you can do to help reduce your own risk.
“Doing regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia,” explains the Alzheimer’s Society (AS).
“It’s good for your heart, circulation, weight and mental wellbeing.”
UK health guidelines recommend doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, each week.