Donanemab: A potential breakthrough in Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment

25th July 2023 By Phoenix Hospital Group

Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of short-term memory problems and dementia, is characterised by the accumulation of a protein called amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide, which forms harmful “amyloid plaques” in the brain.

In the search for effective treatment, scientists are investigating a promising drug called Donanemab. This drug targets and clears the amyloid plaques in the brain, potentially slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease rather than just addressing its symptoms. In this article, Dr Soumit Singhai, an expert in brain health and memory, explores the benefits of Donanemab and its role as a disease-modifying treatment.


What does the Donanemab do?

Donanemab is an antibody designed to seek and bind to the amyloid plaques present in the brain. By doing so, it triggers other immune cells, such as microglia, to remove the harmful amyloid. These amyloid plaques disrupt communication between brain cells and are believed to contribute to the condition’s progression.


What are the benefits?

Unlike conventional drugs that mainly address Alzheimer’s symptoms, Donanemab is a disease-modifying treatment. In clinical trials involving 1,182 people with early-stage Alzheimer’s, researchers observed that Donanemab reduced the progression of the disease and its symptoms by approximately 39% compared to a placebo. Remarkably, almost half of the trial participants showed no evidence of amyloid plaques after 12 months of treatment, as opposed to only 29% in the placebo group.


What is involved in Donanemab treatment?

Patients receiving Donanemab undergo once-a-month intravenous injections for up to 18 months or until the amyloid plaques have been cleared from the brain. Baseline amyloid PET scans and cognitive testing are performed before starting treatment. They are then repeated at regular intervals to assess its effectiveness over time.


When can we expect to see its use in the UK?

The drug, manufactured by Eli Lilly, is currently seeking approval in the US, with applications for approval in other countries expected to follow. If approved, Donanemab could potentially become available in the UK within a year to 18 months. However, the pricing and eligibility for treatment would need to be carefully considered by the NHS.


Who would be eligible to take Donanemab?

To be eligible for Donanemab treatment, individuals need to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. They also need to have detectable amyloid protein plaques in their brain. Amyloid PET scans or spinal fluid tests can detect these. Unfortunately, the therapy may not be effective for those with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s disease. This is because the damage caused by amyloid clusters might be too extensive.


Where can I currently go for Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment?

For Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment, patients have two options: the NHS and private dementia assessments.

NHS memory clinics, while available, often have long waiting times that patients may wish to bypass. The Memory Clinic at 25 Harley Street offer fast and accurate diagnosis without the need for a GP referral. This clinic provides access to the latest technology, which is crucial for the accurately diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s. This includes Amyloid PET scan imaging.

To book a consultation with Dr Soumit Singhai regarding diagnosis or treatment of Alzheimer’s, please get in touch by calling his secretary at 0207 062 7248