IdeastreamPublicMedia.org, By Tayor Wizner, Posted January 2nd 2023
University Hospitals (UH) is enrolling people in a nationwide study of the effects of an experimental drug, which was recently found to slow memory loss for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recently, an unrelated study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed those who took lecanemab over 18 months showed slower cognitive decline, and their brains showed less build-up of the protein marker of the disease.
Today, doctors are able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease sometimes decades before patients begin to experience memory loss, said UH neurologist and Alzheimer’s researcher Dr.Alan Lerner. Early intervention in the form of lifestyle changes can help, but until recently there has been no effective medication to treat the disease.
It’s clear the drug offers a small benefit to early-stage Alzheimer’s patients, Lerner said.
“It’s amazing that medication can actually sort of bend the curve of how you’re doing over a period of several years,” he said.
By 2025, more than 250,000 people 65 and older in Ohio are projected to have Alzheimer’s disease, according to UH.
Lerner said the National Institutes of Health-funded study he is working on will study whether the drug can also prevent memory loss, rather than just slow its progression.
“If we can show this can prevent memory loss this would be a huge step forward,” he said. “It gets to what I feel is one of the nation’s highest unmet medical priorities.”
But other researchers told NPR they are less certain of lecanemab’s ability to slow the progression of the disease and worry about side effects, including brain swelling and bleeding.
Lerner said he is hoping to enroll a racially diverse group of people between the ages of 55 and 80 with a family history or concerns about their cognitive impairment in the study.