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‘Historic’ Alzheimer’s breakthrough as new drug significantly slows memory decline in sufferers

Progression of the disease was reduced by 27pc in patients tested with ‘game-changing’ medicine


Alzheimer's is a devastating disease that affects the elderly. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease that affects the elderly. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease that affects the elderly. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Scientists have hailed a “historic moment” for research into Alzheimer’s disease after identifying a drug capable of reducing memory decline and destroying key proteins associated with the condition.

Their study of 1,800 sufferers found twice-weekly injections of lecanemab could reduce progress of the disease by 27pc.

The drug is the first treatment to both slow cognitive decline and reduce the plaques associated with the disease.

Changes were evident as early as six months after participants started taking it, researchers said, while warning that it does not cure the disease. The drug also slowed the decline in patients’ functional thinking.

Eisai, a Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug, has partnered with Biogen, a US biotech firm, to develop it and is expected to apply for approval in the US this year, before applying for a licence in Europe early next year.

The drug is designed to target and clear amyloid, one of the proteins that builds up early in the development of the disease.

Eisai’s study was the largest to date to test a long-debated theory that clearing the protein may slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.

The company said the results of the research were “highly statistically significant” because they revealed those taking the drug had lower levels of amyloid compared with those taking the placebo.

Alzheimer’s charities said the trial results were the first in a generation to have shown a significant impact on cognitive decline.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This is a historic moment for dementia research, as this is the first phase-three trial of an Alzheimer’s drug in a generation to successfully slow cognitive decline. Lecanemab slows the progression of memory and thinking problems in people with early Alzheimer’s, demonstrating a major breakthrough in dementia research.” 

She said the top-line results “offer new hope to people affected by this cruel and devastating disease”.

Dr Richard Oakley, associate director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said the study could be “game-changing”.

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“I believe that research will cure dementia, and this is a vital milestone on that journey,” he added.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

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