University of Melbourne Professor Christopher Rowe, Director of the Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT), has welcomed the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) overnight “accelerated approval” of Aducanumab to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
“This is great news for people living with dementia and their loved ones. It is the first treatment approved for Alzheimer’s disease in 18 years and the first ever approved disease-modifying therapy,” Professor Rowe said.
“Aducanumab has been convincingly shown to reduce amyloid beta plaques in the brain, which are the likely trigger for Alzheimer’s disease. Clearing the brain from the amyloid plaques appears to slow down further damage to the brain.
“While treating patients showing symptoms of the disease may delay its further progression, the damage that has already occurred is not yet reversible so early treatment is essential.”
Professor Rowe, who is a leading dementia neuroscientist, said while the drug is only approved for use in the USA at this stage, an application for its use in Australia has commenced.
“This is the first therapeutic drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, but I am hopeful it won’t be the only one. Three other anti-amyloid drugs are in Phase III clinical trials, and all appear to effectively clear amyloid plaques from the brain,” Professor Rowe said.
“Trials have now also started to remove amyloid plaques even before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease have developed.”
Australia was one of several countries involved in the aducanumab and other anti-amyloid therapy trials and ADNeT continues to assist recruitment for these trials through screening with advanced brain scans of persons with mild dementia and persons who have not yet developed symptoms.
ADNeT will also measure the long-term benefits of these new therapies through the ADNeT Clinical Quality Registry and is developing faster and easier ways to find people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia is Australia’s second leading cause of death and the greatest cause of disability in Australians aged 65 and over. An estimated 400,000 Australians are living with dementia and care for them costs the nation $15 billion per year.
Persons interested in participating in trials to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia can register through the ADNeT research volunteer portal at australiandementianetwork.org.au.