A new drug titled ‘solanezumab’ for Alzheimer’s is expected to release this week – the drug is predicted to slow or even halt the illness, if given to patients early enough. The announcement is expected to be made at a major US conference, would be a phenomenal moment in the treatment of the disease.
Existing drugs for the diseases can treat or reduce the symptoms only. The drugs fail to tackle the underlying cause of the disease – once the drug stops playing its role, the disease takes its terrible course. In contrast, solanezumab targets the main beta amyloid – toxic protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer’s, destroying vital connections between cells.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s which affects an estimated 800,000 Britons, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short-term memory loss). As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioral issues.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is poorly understood. About 70% of the risk is believed to be genetic with many genes usually involved. Other risk factors include a history of head injuries, depression, or hypertension. The disease process is associated with plaques and tangles of beta amyloid in the brain.
How successful were the clinical trials?
The maker of the new drug, US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, is remaining tight-lipped about the results of trials. However, speaking at a recent conference, its scientists said the drug’s effects were consistent with a ‘treatment that changes the underlying pathology of Alzheimer’s disease’.
Eric Karran, of the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘Current treatments only help with symptoms.
‘They enable nerve cells to communicate with each other more effectively, but don’t stop the underlying disease from getting worse. Eventually, the effect … wears off as the damage to the brain overwhelms the modest benefit afforded by the drugs.’