An estimated 50 million people around the world have dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is thought to make up 70% of cases.
The chronic or progressive disease affects everything from memory and thinking to language and judgement, becoming one of the “major causes of disability and dependency among older people.”
Sadly, there’s currently no treatment available for people living with the condition, and care mainly focuses on improving the lives of those affected.
But this may be about the change — in large part thanks to the work of Alzheimer’s specialist Louis Verret.
‘A major breakthrough’
US pharma company Biogen has spent over a decade assessing how best to address amyloid, a protein that builds up “like rust” in the brain for people living with Alzheimer’s.
To this end, it developed an injection known as Aducanumab. It began trialling the therapy but tests were halted in March 2019, after a data monitoring committee found there was insufficient evidence to prove the injection was working.
All of which makes Louis Verret’s intervention all the more important. Working with a team of doctors in Quebec, the neurologist and Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Memory Clinic ran a trial with a stronger form of Aducanumab on more than 1,000 patients with earlier-stage Alzheimer’s — where the presence of amyloid is not yet overwhelming.
The results were demonstrably positive. Memory improved in objective tests. Patients improved their functionality in everyday life. Evaluators were impressed by those who had been treated.
“This is a major breakthrough,” Verret said in a French-language interview with Radio Canada, adding that positive effects had never been seen for an Alzheimer’s treatment on such a large scale.
“[The results] will probably reinvigorate research…and could eventually lead to lots of treatment options.”
Radio Canada adds that Biogen still needs to get its drug approved by the FDA, and Canada needs to do the same with its own body, Health Canada. This means that it will still be several years before the drug is available to patients.
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