Health

Donanemab: Who will be able to afford miracle drug for Alzheimer’s disease?

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Dr Seth Gale points out evidence of Alzheimer’s disease on PET scans at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART) at Brigham And Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., March 30, 2023.— Reuters/File
Dr Seth Gale points out evidence of Alzheimer’s disease on PET scans at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART) at Brigham And Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., March 30, 2023.— Reuters/File

A groundbreaking medication called Donanemab has emerged as a pivotal milestone in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease, following a worldwide clinical trial that validates its ability to decelerate cognitive decline and it’s even better than Leqembi, another “miracle drug”.

It is a significant milestone in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease — a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that causes the nerve cells in the brain to die gradually destroying memory and thinking skills, and in the end, the ability to carry out the simplest daily tasks. 

For the first time, doctors have a medication that has been proven to slow the loss of memory and daily functioning that Alzheimer’s disease brings. 

Eli Lilly’s Donanemab is expected to join Leqembi on the market by the end of the year. Donanemab has shown promising results in delaying the progression of the disease.

While these drugs offer a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s treatment by targeting the buildups of amyloid protein in the brain, experts have raised questions about the extent of their benefits. 

Editorials published in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted the modest nature of the drugs’ effects. 

However, they acknowledged that the slowing of disease progression seen in clinical trials is a significant start.

In a trial involving over 1,700 participants, those taking Donanemab experienced a 35% slower progression of the disease compared to those on a placebo. 

This translated to a loss of six points on a 144-point scale, compared to a loss of nine points for the placebo group. 

Researchers emphasized the need for longer-term studies to assess the drugs’ effectiveness and safety.

Despite the cautious reception, the trial results have provided valuable insights. 

The study demonstrated that the effect of the drug continues to grow over time, suggesting the potential for greater benefits for patients with Alzheimer’s. 

Furthermore, the trial showed that treating the disease earlier in its course, particularly in those with mild cognitive impairment, yielded the strongest results.

While the drugs offer hope for patients and their families, there are challenges to consider. 

The drugs are administered through intravenous infusion and can lead to side effects such as brain swelling or bleeds. 

The cost of these medications is also a concern, with Leqembi priced at $26,500 per year before insurance coverage. 

Additionally, efforts are needed to ensure diverse representation in clinical trials and improve health equity.

In conclusion, while the approval of Leqembi and the potential availability of Donanemab offer new possibilities in Alzheimer’s treatment, further research is needed to fully understand their benefits and address safety and access concerns. 

Nonetheless, for many patients, these drugs provide a glimmer of hope in the face of a challenging disease.

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