THE first ever drug that slows Alzheimer's has been approved in the US – offering fresh hope to 500,000 Brits with the disease.
Health bosses at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) today gave aducanumab the green light after trials found high doses “significantly” boosted memory and language skills.
It's the first new dementia drug for nearly 20 years – and the very first to act on the disease itself.
Around six million people have Alzheimer's in the US and as Baby Boomers progress into their 60s and 70s, the illness is only expected to grow in size.
The approval from the FDA in the US is likely to push other manufacturers to continue to research and develop new treatments for the US market.
The drug has been approved by the FDA and the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK has yet to give it the green light – but it could be rolled out on the NHS by 2022.
Prof Craig Ritchie, Director of Brain Health Scotland and Professor of the Psychiatry of Ageing, University of Edinburgh said: "The announcement by the FDA is welcomed as it opens a new chapter for drug treatments in Alzheimer’s disease.
£Use within the NHS though remains some months away and it is critically important that the safe use of this intervention in those people most likely to benefit is fully considered".
Alzheimer’s is caused by a build-up of toxic proteins that damage brain cells.
The new drug works by helping to clear these deadly deposits.
Other experimental drugs have worked this way before but made no different when it came to how a person thinks or cares for themselves.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said approval would be a “historic moment” in the fight against the disease.
Experts have welcomed the decision from the FDA but said that it will "at best help a few select patients".
Prof John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, UCL explained that better amyloid drugs would be needed further down the line.
What is Alzheimer’s disease, how can I see the signs and symptoms?
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.
It is physical disease that affects the brain, and affects more than 520,000 people in the UK.
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.
As the disease progresses and begins to interfere with a person's life they may:
- lose common items including keys and glasses around the house
- struggle to find the word they are looking for in conversation
- forget recent conversations or events
- get lost in a familiar place, or while on a familiar journey
- forget important anniversaries, birthdays or appointments
He said these would help deal with the tau/tangle pathology and which help microglia (the immune system of the brain) deal effectively with amyloid deposition.
"One could characterise this, not as the beginning of the end of Alzheimer’s, but as the end of the beginning in terms of treatments",he added.
Prof Paul Morgan, Director of the Systems Immunity Research Institute, Cardiff University added that any development in the area should be applauded.
He said: " Celebration because any progress in the development of effective drugs for this devastating disease must be welcomed; caution because the evidence base for the use of this drug is limited, evident from its very chequered history of trials failure and phoenix-like re-birth. "
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