Biogen's Alzheimer's drug gets cautiously optimistic review

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Some of the US’s top neuroscientists have responded with cautious optimism to a detailed presentation from pharmaceutical maker Biogen about an experimental drug that appears to slow the brain’s deterioration in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, reports The Washington Post. Despite conflicting data from two identical studies, Biogen said the drug, known as aducanumab, appears to reduce the build-up of a key substance associated with the onset of dementia.

The company offered the scientific community a more detailed and complete look at the data during a live-streamed presentation at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimers Disease conference in San Diego.

R Scott Turner, director of Georgetown University’s Memory Disorders Programme, which partnered in the study, said the presentation made a good case that the drug offers the best hope for the first significant treatment for the disease since 2003, when the US Food and Drug Administration approved memantine, which is commonly marketed as Namenda and relieves some of the symptoms of dementia.

“The aducanumab results presented today are truly exciting and represent a major breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” Turner said in the report. “This study proves that we are on the right track to developing more effective, disease-modifying treatments designed to stop or slow memory decline in the earliest disease stage – when patients are still relatively independent in their daily functions.”

Biogen has said it plans to seek FDA approval early next year. If approved, the drug would become the first to treat the underlying pathology of the dementia-causing disease.

The report says the announcement comes about two months after the pharmaceutical company announced that after taking a second look at data from one of its studies deemed to have been a failure – and hearing anecdotal experience from study participants and their caregivers – the drug had in fact shown evidence of effectiveness.

The drug appears to allow people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease to continue independently going about their daily business longer than people who didn’t take it. By one standardised measure of such functioning, the drug appears to slow the rate of deterioration by 40%, the study found.

The Washington Post report

The Lancet Neurology article

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