What’s New in Alzheimer Disease Treatment?

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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There are 8 million new cases of Alzheimer disease (AD) each year—and while new headlines appear every week about potential cures, it may discourage you to know that many recent AD trials have been unsuccessful, though not for a lack of trying. In fact, there have been no new medication approvals for this currently untreatable disease in over ten years.

What about drugs already on the market? Current medications like donepezil (Aricept) and memantine (Namenda) have some benefits for symptoms, but don’t slow progression or prevent the disease.

Solanezumab is making news this week because the drug company has hinted that trials show it may help in a small group of AD patients.

Here is the bleak update on what’s new in AD treatment.

  1. Antibodies against amyloid-beta: Misfolded proteins result in plaques of amyloid and tau proteins in the brain, leading to AD. Some very high profile phase 3 clinical trials yielded disappointing results for three new antibodies against the amyloid-beta protein: crenezumab, bapineuzumab and solanezumab. None of these drugs improve clinical outcomes in patients with late onset AD, sadly adding them to a long list of unsuccessful attempts to treat AD with anti-amyloid therapies.
  2. But wait . . . The drug company that makes solanezumab has reported that results coming at the end of next year may show potential benefit in those with mild AD. Stay tuned on this.
  3. Vaccines against AD. Three of the peptide vaccines for active immunizations (CAD106, ACC001, and Affitope) are in phase 2 clinical trials. Phase 2 means the vaccines are being given to a larger group of people to see if they are effective and to further evaluate their safety.  Again, stay tuned, but there is a long way to go on this.

Dr O.

Drugs featured in this story

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