Status: 21.09.2023, 19:00 p.m.
By: Natalie Hull-Deichsel
The active ingredient lecanemab is said to be able to delay dementia for several months. The effect may even increase with prolonged use.
In Germany, a new Alzheimer's drug with the active ingredient lecanemab may soon be available. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will decide on the approval in the coming months, with a positive vote considered likely. If approval is granted, the active ingredient may be prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In the United States, it is already used for treatment. On the occasion of World Alzheimer's Day on September 21, the non-profit Alzheimer's Research Initiative e.V. (AFI), together with Professor Dr. Stefan Teipel, expert in dementia research and head of clinical research at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), answers the most important questions about the Alzheimer's drug.
How does the new Alzheimer's drug work?
The active ingredient lecanemab could soon be used in Germany for Alzheimer's patients and delay the disease. (Symbolic image) Alzheimer Forschung Initiative e. V. / Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) © Aachen
The drug used to treat the most common form of dementia is based on passive immunization and is an antibody directed against the accumulations of the protein beta-amyloid. These accumulations are associated with the death of nerve cells in the brain. Lecanemab is designed to eliminate these accumulations in the brain. In a pivotal study, the antibody was able to slow down mental decline in patients by 18 percent after 27 months.
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Can Alzheimer's be cured by the new drug?
Thanks to the principle of action of lecanemab, there would be the first drug in Germany that targets one of the fundamental causes of Alzheimer's disease. Nevertheless, Alzheimer's can neither be stopped nor cured so far. The drug can simply slow down the course of the disease and delay the course of the disease for about five to seven months. "It is hoped that this effect will increase with prolonged use, but so far there is a lack of corresponding data," explains Professor Stefan Teipel in a press release from the Alzheimer's Research Initiative e.V. (AFI).
Which Alzheimer's patients can be treated with the new drug?
Treatment with lecanemab is only considered for Alzheimer's patients in the early stages of the disease. People who already show advanced symptoms or have another form of dementia will not benefit from this treatment. Certain populations are at increased risk of side effects, so the benefits and risks must be weighed individually before starting treatment. Since the therapy is not suitable for every patient, a comprehensive diagnosis is crucial. "I would be more cautious about patients who take blood thinners and those who carry a duplicate copy of the ApoE4 gene. The risk of cerebral haemorrhage is increased for these patients," says Professor Teipel. ApoE4 is a gene that increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Can treatment with the new Alzheimer's drug lead to side effects?
In the pivotal study, 17 percent of the subjects experienced local brain swelling and microhemorrhages. In most cases, these were asymptomatic, but some patients had a severe course. "The treatment can have serious side effects. That's why close monitoring is very important during treatment," emphasizes dementia researcher Professor Teipel.
This article contains only general information on the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. It is in no way a substitute for a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, individual questions about clinical pictures may not be answered by our editors.