The last 20 years have seen intense research for a treatment that delays the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that is associated with increasing disability.
The last drugs approved for this disease, around 20 years ago, were drugs directed at the symptoms, with no effect on the progression of the disease. In 2021, the United States Medicines Agency (FDA) approved a new medicine, aducanumab, that has the potential to modify disease progression. It is still under study and was not approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Recently the results of the clinical trial with the monoclonal antibody lecanemab for people with Alzheimer's disease were released. This medicine seems to be effective in removing one of the proteins that accumulate in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease and also seems to show some delay in the decline from a clinical and functional point of view after 18 months of treatment.
Can I have access to lecanemab?
No. Lecanemab is still under investigation and has not yet been approved by the competent regulatory authorities.
Who will be able to be treated with this new medication?
If lecanemab is approved by the competent authorities, people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and carefully selected (by the presence of biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid obtained by lumbar puncture and/or brain PET) seem to be the best candidates.
Are there any risks associated with this treatment?
As with any medication, there are always side effects that can occur. The effects that most concern the authorities are those related to inflammatory reactions and the risk of cerebral hemorrhage, which means that to be used patients will need to undergo periodic brain magnetic resonance imaging.
Although this treatment is far from being a cure for Alzheimer's disease, it is an important step research-wise and may in the future contribute to improving the lives of patients and their families and caregivers.
What can I do to prevent Alzheimer's Disease?
Some modifiable risk factors increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease. These risks include high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, and reduced hearing. These risks must be identified and eliminated in a Dementia Prevention consultation.
For more information book an Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia appointment.
Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementia Unit of the CNS
Dr. Joana Morgado and Dr. Camila Nóbrega