Dementia Australia has welcomed the announcement by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving lecanemab, a new disease modifying treatment for people living with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said this was exciting news for the entire dementia community globally.
“This announcement provides further hope for people who are developing symptoms and who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” Ms McCabe said.
“With dementia the second leading cause of death of Australians, and the leading cause of death of Australian women, I welcome any steps taken towards improving the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers.
“I do however acknowledge that lecanemab has only been approved by the FDA for use within the United States and comes with possible side effects that need to be carefully monitored by health professionals.”
Lecanemab is not yet available in Australia and will need to be approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The drug is the second FDA approved medication which removes amyloid plaque from the brain. Amyloid plaques are thought to cause the damage in the brain that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
Aducanumab was the first drug in this category approved by the FDA in June 2021; it is not available for use within Australia.
Both lecanemab and aducanumab remove amyloid from the brain but each drug binds to the amyloid in a slightly different way.
Dementia Australia Honorary Medical Advisory Associate Professor Michael Woodward AM said that through removing the toxic amyloid protein we can significantly reduce the rate of memory and other decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“The approval of lecanemab is an advancement in our progress towards finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” Associate Professor Woodward said.
“A trial of the drug found a 27 per cent decline in disease progression over 18-months.
“What this means is that if you took the drug for two years you would be up to nine months better off and that is a significant benefit.
“It means nine months longer with our loved ones, nine months longer of doing the things we love.
“It is however important to note that lecanemab can cause side effects and that these need to be carefully monitored with regular brain scans.
“I see lecanemab as an important step and a move in the right direction for treating Alzheimer’s disease for which we still do not have a cure.”
Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the up to half a million Australians living with dementia, and the almost 1.6 million people involved in their care. We advocate for positive change and support vital research.
We are here to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible. No matter how you are impacted by dementia or who you are, we are here for you.
For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit dementia.org.au