Ground-breaking Alzheimer’s Treatment Shows Promise: Donanemab Latest Results Released

Breakthrough results in Eli Lilly’s Phase 3 TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 2 trial for Alzheimer’s drug treatment donanemab have been presented at the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), bringing hope to those urgently seeking new treatment options.

Over the past three decades, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) researchers and those diagnosed with AD and their families have been frustrated with what has largely been seen as an unmanageable disease.  Now, following the success of Eisai and Biogen’s latest drug lecanemab, which focusses on the removal of amyloid clumps in the brain called ‘plaques’—a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease— highly anticipated data from Eli Lilly’s global clinical study shows donanemab demonstrates comparable and remarkable efficacy in slowing cognitive decline and reducing the accumulation of plaques in individuals with early symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease.

The trial involved 1,700 people (including sixteen Australians), aged between 60-85, who all showed symptoms of early-stage AD.  After 12 months, 47% of the group taking donanemab had no evidence of amyloid plaques, compared to 29% in the placebo group.  The results also show the drug is able to slow AD progression by 35% in patients in the earliest stages of the disease.

The Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT), led by the University of Melbourne, is a network of leading dementia experts who have welcomed the milestone findings.  ADNeT Screening and Trials Co-Lead Professor Colin Masters was at the AAIC when the results were presented and simultaneously published in theJournal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  Professor Masters spoke with ABC National Radio and said of the results, “When it rolls out in real-world practice we’ll see the full extent of it.  At this point, it is a game changer and we’re all very excited about it.”

A significant delay in disease progression means that, on average, participants treated with donanemab had an additional 7.5 months before they reached the same level of cognitive and functional decline as compared to those on placebo.  Similar to lecanemab, which was recently fast-tracked to market as Leqembi by the U.S Food and Drug Administration, it is expected Eli Lilly will seek the same approval for donanemab in coming months.

This will be welcome news for the estimated 500,000 Australians living with dementia today.  As the leading cause of disease burden in Australians over the age of 65 years, these ground-breaking findings signify another advancement in the ongoing quest for effective treatments, urgently required to combat the dementia epidemic both in Australia and globally.