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Health, Science & Environment

Experimental drug shows 'potential' in slowing progression of Alzheimer's disease

A doctor looks at PET brain scans to check for Alzheimer’s disease.
Matt York/AP
A doctor looks at PET brain scans to check for Alzheimer’s disease.

Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center is involved in a trial of an experimental drug that shows modest potential in slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

The drug is called Lecanemab, and was shown to reduce cognitive and functional decline by 27 percent in a recent Phase 3 trial.

The findings were published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"It's been a long time since we've had studies that have shown some benefit," said Dr. Douglas Sharre, director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology and the study's principal investigator at OSU.

Dr. Sharre said Lecanemab works by eliminating amyloid, a toxic protein that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

"This study showed that it was helpful. It's not a miracle drug, it doesn't reverse the disease, doesn't get rid of Alzheimer's. But it slows the decline significantly more than the placebo did," he said.

Importantly, he said, the drug only works if applied in the very early, mild stages of dementia. "If you're a family member or a patient out there, you're beginning to notice some cognitive issues, get in to see your provider. You don't want to wait on this. If you wait, and then you're missing the window where these things may be helpful to you, you'll come in and it will be too late," he said.

A number of regulatory hurdles remain before Lecanemab is available for physicians to prescribe. Dr. Sharre says it could be on the market as early as spring of next year.

Health, Science & Environment
Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.