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New Alzheimer’s drug is challenged by experts

aducanumab tablets
aducanumab tablets Image credit: seekingalpha.com

The US has approved a new drug to treat Alzheimers which, if proved successful, could be used in the UK.

Unlike most medication aducanumab targets the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s opposed to its symptoms, but so far trials have caused concern.

In March 2019 around 3,000 patients who took the drug showed no sign of improvement as their memory continued to deteriorate without slowing down. The trail was eventually stopped.

But The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said there was "substantial evidence that aducanumab reduces amyloid beta plaques in the brain" and that this "is reasonably likely to predict important benefits to patients".

Despite the unsuccessful trial in March 2019 US manufacturer Biogen said the drug is productive if given in higher doses.

Aducanumab attacks a protein called amyloid which produces large chunks in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients which can cause memory and thinking problems, difficulty communicating and confusion.

If the drug receives a green light in the UK it could help the 500,000 people living with the illness across the country.

Patients eligible for the drug will be those aged in their 60s or 70s with early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Prof Bart De Strooper, director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, said approving aducanumab would be “a hugely significant milestone” towards a finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s, but he warned there were “still many barriers to overcome".

Prof John Hardy, professor of neuroscience at University College London, said: "We have to be clear that, at best, this is a drug with marginal benefit which will help only very carefully selected patients."

One expert who is totally against the drug is Prof Robert Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at UCL, calling the drug “a grave error” that could push back research for more effective medication “for a decade”.

Contradicting the professor concern the Alzheimer’s Society has asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock to fast-track the drug for approval.

The charity’s Chief executive Hilary Evans, said: "People with dementia and their families have been waiting far too long for life-changing new treatments.

"It is now essential that regulatory authorities assess the evidence to decide whether they believe the drug is safe and effective for use in the UK."

More than 30 million people around the world are thought to have Alzheimer's.