Two Alzheimer’s drugs offer hope to patients after decades of waiting

In clinical trials, the medications slowed the progress of the degenerative disease that affects 50 million people worldwide

This week US drugmaker Lilly published positive results from the trial, raising hopes among patients and doctors for a new class of drugs being developed to treat Alzheimer’s. It also generated excitement across the pharmaceutical industry, which is enticed by the prospect of selling medicines to the more than 50mn people worldwide who suffer from the disease.

The trial showed that donanemab slowed progression of the disease by 35 per cent compared with a placebo over an 18-month period. Although there is no evidence that the drug can reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the trial showed that the decline in patients’ ability to perform daily tasks was 40 percent lower for those on donanemab.

Lilly said it anticipated US regulators would approve the drug later this year based on the successful trial results.

The results mark the second significant breakthrough in a year for a class of drugs targeting a disease that is the most common cause of dementia and for which there is no cure. It comes as a new generation of blood tests for Alzheimer’s are being developed which offer the tantalising prospect of early detection and treatment of the condition for the first time.