Eli Lilly drug slows Alzheimer’s disease progression: Study

  • Patients who received the drug demonstrated at 35% slower decline in memory
  • Three patients in the trial died from side effects of donanemab
  • Lilly plans to apply for FDA approval of donanemab by the end of June

(NewsNation) — An experimental Alzheimer’s treatment developed by Eli Lilly, significantly slowed the progression of the disease, according to clinical trial data released Wednesday by the company.

The drug, donanemab, slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s by 35% to 36% compared to a placebo in 1,1182 patients diagnosed with the early-stage disease based on scans showing brain deposits of a protein called amyloid and intermediate levels of a second protein known as tau, the study found.

The other 552 patients had high levels of tau, suggesting they would be less likely to respond to the treatment.

“The 35% decline was an average of all the patients that were in the study,” Dr. Robert Vassar, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Northwestern University, clarified during an appearance on NewsNation’s “Elizabeth Vargas Reports.” “So some obviously must have had even more improvement than 35%. Others less.”

After combining both groups, donanemab was shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s by 22% using a Lilly-developed scale to measure cognition and activities of daily living, and by 29% based on a more commonly used scale of dementia progression.

Patients who took donanemab were 39% less likely to progress to the next stage of the disease during the study, according to the trial results.

Donanemab works by removing plaque buildup in the brain known as amyloid which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. But side effects were reported — there were three deaths in the trial among people taking the drug. Two of the deaths were attributed to brain swelling or microhemorrhages. The trial ran for 18 months.

Lily plans to file for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of donanemab by the end of June and with regulators from other countries shortly thereafter.


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