Scientists issue guidance on new treatments for early Alzheimer’s disease

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New treatments using special proteins, known as monoclonal antibodies, to remove harmful brain plaques are giving hope to people suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

To help doctors and patients understand these new options better, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has released a new article.

While the article doesn’t serve as an official guideline, it compiles current knowledge and expert opinions on these treatments.

“Millions of people have Alzheimer’s, and there is a huge interest in these therapies,” said Carlayne E. Jackson, President of the AAN.

She emphasized that this article would help doctors and patients have meaningful discussions about whether these new treatments could be beneficial.

What You Need to Know About These Treatments

The AAN article discusses three treatments in particular: lecanemab, aducanumab, and donanemab.

Lecanemab received approval from the FDA in July 2023, while aducanumab got “fast-tracked” in 2021 but is still under review for full approval. Donanemab is still awaiting a decision.

These treatments aim to remove the harmful brain plaques that are commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients. However, they come with restrictions and risks.

For instance, only people with early symptoms, mild memory issues, or mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s can receive lecanemab.

Also, patients have to be cautious about some genetic factors and shouldn’t have a history of certain types of strokes.

Additionally, there have been three deaths linked to lecanemab, and two of those people were on anticoagulants (common blood thinners for older adults).

These treatments can also cause serious brain side effects, like swelling and bleeding, that could be fatal.

The Road Ahead: Costs, Equity, and More Research

While these new treatments seem promising, there are several issues that need to be considered. First, they are not a cure; they aim to slow down the mental decline, and even that isn’t guaranteed.

Second, these therapies are expensive. Aside from the cost of the medication itself, patients will need regular brain scans and other tests, which add to the overall price tag.

Additionally, there is already a shortage of neurologists who can administer these treatments, raising concerns about how to meet the growing demand.

Another significant concern is that the clinical trials so far have been mainly conducted on white participants, leaving Black and Hispanic populations underrepresented.

This is particularly troubling since these groups have higher rates of dementia compared to white populations.

“We’re hopeful but cautious,” said Vijay K. Ramanan, the article’s author. “We need more research to figure out who could benefit most from these treatments and how to make them safer and more effective.”

Bottom Line

The introduction of monoclonal antibody treatments for Alzheimer’s marks a crucial step forward, but it’s clear that we’re still in the early stages of this medical journey. Many questions remain about their efficacy, safety, and accessibility.

As we move forward, it’s vital to address these questions through further research, ensuring that the new treatments are not just effective but are also accessible to everyone, regardless of their ethnic background or financial status.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies that bad lifestyle habits can cause Alzheimer’s disease, and this new drug may help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about a new early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, and results showing this brain problem can increase risk of stroke for up to five years.

The research findings can be found in Neurology.

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