News that the dementia drug Solanezumab failed to have any discernible effect on patients with early Alzheimer’s was a blow for the dementia community, but there are still other trials going on
Earlier this week it was announced that a drug developed by Eli Lilly & Co. and which was presented last year with much fanfare to the medical and scientific community as the Alzheimer’s drug that we’ve all been waiting for, has fallen at the final hurdle.
Solanezumab (pronounced sol-ah-NAYZ-uh-mab) failed to slow mental decline in people with mild Alzheimer’s disease. The drug is designed to target the plaques of amyloid protein in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s, but didn’t show any noticeable benefit in these final stage tests of patients.
While this news is bitterly disappointing, it’s important that people remain optimistic. There are still numerous other major studies into potential drugs and treatments for dementia.
Dr Ben Underwood, Eastern clinical lead for dementia, mental health and neurology at the National Institute for Health Research, said a single setback should not affect “strong” reasons to be optimistic.
‘The recent failure of a potential drug for Alzheimer’s disease is of course disappointing – it would have been so much better if the drug had been successful. However, one setback does not mean that there are not strong reasons to be optimistic.
‘Firstly, even this most recent trial has added to our knowledge about the disease, and in medical history understanding diseases as well as we understand Alzheimer’s has almost always led to treatment. Secondly, this is not the only drug being developed. There have never been so many drugs being trialled for dementia.
‘At the Windsor research Unit in Cambridge alone we are running 14 separate studies, many of them drug trials. The really exciting thing is that nearly all these potential treatments work in quite different ways. All of these are based on sound science so it seems very unlikely that all will fail.
‘I am aware of at least two other totally different drugs undergoing final trials where results will be known in the next six months to a year, so though the recent news has been disappointing we are very close to more results and it seems likely at least some of these will be successful. Because they are also the last studies needed to gain approval, if they are successful the drugs should quickly be available to patients.
‘Dementia is the most pressing medical problem of our time, but there are genuine reasons to think that more effective treatments are likely to arrive in the near future. Now is not a time to be disheartened.’
Other researchers and experts have pointed out that the drug may still be beneficial if given even earlier than during the mild stages of Alzheimer’s disease, when people don’t yet have symptoms but which tests have shown that they already have a build-up of proteins.
And of course, with all research, it’s vital that scientists have enough people to take part in trials so you can still be proactive in helping to find a cure. If you’re interested in getting involved with trials, click here.
Until then, have a watch of this moving Christmas advert from Alzheimer’s Research UK, which explains why dementia research is so vital.