Big news on the Alzheimer’s! Biogen announced Friday, March 20th, that its research with the drug, Aducanumab, has shown remarkable success, and that they will continue forward with large group testing. It’s excellent news to have positive, substantial results early on in testing.
The numbers sound small in a way, but when you put them in perspective, it could prove to be huge. First, this particular test was done with less than 170 people. The next text will be a far larger amount. So we don’t get too excited, reports always warn that many tests showing strong results in a small group such as this, have failed to show noticeable results in large group testing.
That said, this one will proceed. First, they did find it removed some of the plaque tangles that are part of Alzheimer’s, though as yet they aren’t sure of the role the plaque actually plays in deterioration.
Second, testing after a year showed much less cognitive decline. A “30 point mini-mental” test was used that included tasks such as asking the person to repeat three words spoken to them, questions about date and location that show orientation, identifying objects, and following simple instructions.
The 166 participants were given random doses, some a placebo, some a mid range dose and others a higher dose. Those receiving the placebo averaged a 3.14 point decline. Those receiving the medium dose, showed a .75 point decline, and the high dose averaged only a .58 point decline. When you consider that is based on the 30 point scale, it is surely cause to be encouraged if not excited.
Side Effects: Not on Lower Dose–Encouraging
One side effect may dampen enthusiasm unless the dosage adjustments resolve it. The drug caused brain swelling in some. Several participants dropped out of the study due to that.
However, the swelling did not occur in the mid range dose. That’s a great sign. Whether the swelling can be managed with dose adjustments will have an important place in the study. It seems to me that if the mid range dose still reduced decline by over 2 points, it is still a remarkable finding and definitely worth further study. Any delay or assist that lessens the onset or the severity would be an excellent finding!
With results like this, while the drug may not be a cure—at least yet—it could offer years of lucidity to a soul who may get Alzheimer’s disease. That not only provides a normal productive lifestyle, it also could cut the national costs enormously. Since the numbers are expected to increase dramatically, this drug could be of even great importance.
For more about the cost of Alzheimer’s please read The Frightening Future of Alzheimer’s Disease .
I encourage you to read the article in the New York Times here. You can read about the drug itself here.
We’ll be following this study and others. Between this study and the recent ultra sound study, it will be exciting to see the progress. You can watch for updates at Alzheimer’s HQ.