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Alzheimer’s drugs slow disease

Updated: Jul 20, 2023


A drug for treating Alzheimer’s disease, developed thanks to animals, has shown encouraging results in a clinical trial.


Donanemab is a monoclonal antibody treatment from US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly that works by modifying the disease itself, rather than just relieving symptoms.


The drug was developed by producing these antibodies in mice, and is the second Alzheimer’s drug that has been shown to slow the disease, after lecanemab last year (which was also developed from mouse antibodies).


Lecanemab was the first approved Alzheimer’s drug to slow damage to the brain, demonstrated in a 2022 trial. It was jointly developed by two companies: Japan-based Eisai and US-based Biogen.


In human trials, donanemab slowed the brain decline of patients by almost a third, while in around half the patients there was no progress in the disease after a year. Nevertheless, brain swelling was a side effect in some patients, and was linked to three deaths during the study.


Speaking of doanemab, Alzheimer's Research UK told the BBC: “We're now on the cusp of a first generation of treatments for Alzheimer's disease, something that many thought impossible only a decade ago.”


EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said: “Opponents of animal research claim it is old-fashioned and out-dated, but animal studies played an absolutely vital part in this new method of drug development.”


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