For those who know someone who has suffered or is suffering from Alzheimer’s, you can feel so helpless. You just wish there was a magic pill they could take to be their old selves again, or at the very least, stop vanishing before your eyes.
In the latter case, scientists have made a remarkable breakthrough in the quest to battle the rate of Alzheimer’s decline.
The trial results for a drug called solanezumab have had very promising results and was shown to stave off memory loss in patients with mild Alzheimer’s over the course of several years.
The results have been hailed as “hugely significant” because it is the very first time any medicine has slowed the rate at which the disease damages the brain.
Director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Eric Karran, said, “This is the first evidence of something genuinely modifying the disease process.
It’s a breakthrough in my mind. The history of medicine suggests that once you get through that door you can explore further therapeutic opportunities much more aggressively. It makes us less helpless”.
During testing, scientists found that in 1,300 patients with mild dementia, those who had been placed on the drug showed 30 per cent slower decline in memory and cognitive tests than those who had taken a placebo over an 18-month period.
This result shows that if the drug is given early enough, it could really slow down those periods where that person you know and love disappears before your eyes.
“It’s entirely possible you’ll show an even bigger benefit if people are given solanezumab earlier on,” said Karran.
The drug world by breaking down the sticky plaques in the brain that cause mental decline. It works by disassembling the structures that make up the plaques, slowly causing them to disintegrate.
Other inferior dementia drugs targeted this plaque but were not successful in getting to the root of the disease.
Dr Doug Brown, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Today’s findings strongly suggest that targeting people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease with these antibody treatments is the best way to slow or stop Alzheimer’s disease. These drugs are able to reduce the sticky plaques of amyloid that build up in the brain, and now we have seen the first hints that doing this early enough may slow disease progression”.
Although many of the tests have been positive, it could be years before the medicine will be available for general use. But if it does, it would revolutionise one of life’s most upsetting consequences of ageing – losing it all.