Second Alzheimer’s Drug, donanemab, Succeeds in Phase 3 Trial

Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has announced that their Alzheimer’s drug, donanemab, has successfully slowed memory and thinking decline in a rigorous phase 3 trial. The TRAILBLAZER ALZ-2 trial tested the drug in nearly 1,200 people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Early trial results appear to suggest that the drug slows the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms by 36%.

The announcement makes this the second drug to show positive results in the last six months.

According to Lilly’s press release, the trial showed that participants who took donanemab had a slower rate of decline in memory and thinking skills, compared to people who did not receive the drug. However, it also caused serious side effects for some participants.

As with other drugs that have emerged recently, donanemab works by removing build-up of a protein called amyloid – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s – from the brain.

The trial results are yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Executive Director of Research & Partnerships, commented on the results:

“This is incredibly encouraging, and another hugely significant moment for dementia research. A second drug for Alzheimer’s has been shown to slow people’s cognitive decline in a rigorous phase 3 trial. We’re now on the cusp of a first generation of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, something that many thought impossible only a decade ago.

“The treatment effect is modest, as is the case for many first-generation drugs, and there are risks of serious side effects that need to be fully scrutinised before donanemab can be marketed and used. However, this news underlines the urgency of preparing the NHS to make these treatments available should regulators deem them safe and effective. People should be really encouraged by this news, which is yet more proof that research can take us ever closer towards a cure.”

Dr Richard Oakley, Associate Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “After 20 years with no new Alzheimer’s drugs, we now have two potential new drugs in just twelve months – and for the first time, drugs that seem to slow the progression of disease. This could be the beginning of the end of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Based on today’s early results, donanemab appears to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms by 36 % (as compared with 27% of last year’s breakthrough drug lecanemab).