THE first drug to slow Alzheimer’s is set for approval in what could be a breakthrough for people suffering with the brain disorder.
Regulators in the US have claimed that there is “exceptionally persuasive evidence” that treatment Aducanumab works to treat the debilitating condition.
The treatment could be ready for use in the US by March and could later be backed by regulators in the UK.
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, the last treatment to have been approved for Alzheimer’s was Memantine, which the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) approved in 2003.
The new treatment works by attacking toxic proteins in the brain – which are also known as amyloid.
When taken at high doses it can slow mental decline by a quarter, over a 12 month period.
Of those people who die of the condition, many are found to have amyloid plaques in their brains.
The treatment is able to artificially create an antibody which then latches onto the plaque and in turn destroys it.
The drug is not a cure but a treatment for the illness.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
The damage caused to the brain by Alzheimer’s disease causes the symptoms commonly associated with dementia.
Indeed, it is the most common trigger for dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is named after the doctor who first described it in medical literature, Alois Alzheimer.
A hallmark of the disease is the build-up of amyloid beta proteins in the brain, to cause plaques.
This results in the loss of connections between nerve cells in the brain, and ultimately the death of those cells and a loss of brain tissue.
Those people living with Alzheimer’s also have a shortage of some key chemicals in the brain, which help transmit messages.
A lack of these chemicals means the brain is unable to process some messages as it would previously.
Though there is no cure for the disease, some treatments can help boost these chemical messages, to ward off some of the symptoms.
However, in the absence of a cure, it is a progressive disease. More symptoms appear and become more severe over time.
As with many drug trials, the drug has had its fair share of turbulence and last year trials were stopped when analysis found it was having no effect on patients.
Biogen refuted these claims later on in the year and claimed that patients who received a high dose of the drug also experienced a slowing in their cognitive decline.
The company behind the drug, Biogen Inc, has seen its shares soar after the FDA stated that there was evidence the drug could work.
Millions of pounds has been invested into the drug and in a statement the FDA said: “The applicant has provided substantial evidence of effectiveness to support approval.”
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In the US, almost six million Americans are affected by the illness and in the UK experts say that nearly one million Brits will have dementia by 2021, of which Alzheimer’s is the main cause.
Despite the announcement from the FDA, charities in the UK have heeded caution as the drug has yet to have been approved by UK regulators.
Speaking to The Times, Hilary Evans, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK said the announcement offers hope that a new treatment could be in sight.
However the head of research at the charity, James Pickett, said it was important to be mindful of the caveats, but added that the drug had the “potential to be transformative”.