Science 3

New Drug Aims to Defeat Alzheimer’s

I’m willing to bet that we’ve all experienced the same type of dream (or, rather, nightmare) at some point in our lives in which we were thrown into a situation with no idea who we were, where we were, what was happening, or who exactly the people around us might have been. Much like in these dreams, the unbearable confusion and disorientation that occurs during moments of nightmarish uncertainty can become all too real as we age—and this time, without the hope of eventually waking up.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 18 million people worldwide have the debilitating and frightening disease known as Alzheimer’s (a form of severe dementia common among older adults). This means that, more likely than not, we all know someone—be it a friend, a teacher, a parent, a grandparent, etc.—who has been affected by the irreversible illness that damages “parts of the brain that control thought, memory, […] language and […] a person’s ability to carry out daily activities”. The devastation left in the wake of Alzheimer’s affects not only the patients diagnosed with it, but also the family, friends, and other loved ones who must come to terms with the idea that their friend or parent or grandparent is slowly losing their identity along with their memories and independence.

Luckily, science can always be depended upon to strive to solve life’s tragic illnesses and, even now, is serving as a beacon of hope to the future treatment, and prevention, of Alzheimer’s disease.

On Monday, October 8, the results of two clinical trials (containing a total of about 2,000 individuals) involving the drug solanezumab were presented to the American Neurological Association in Boston, Massachusetts.

The results showed that the newly-developed drug “slows the speed of mental decline by a third in those with mild-to-moderate disease”; something which thousands of experimental treatments have tried to achieve. Among these many attempts, “only a handful” have ever been able to gain approval, and even those that have been approved are still incapable of tackling the underlying cause of the disease.

According to Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical firm backing the drug, solanezumab is the first Alzheimer’s treatment drug capable of combating the disease at its source: it is able to “clear the protein ‘plaques’ [known as amyloids] thought to cause Alzheimer’s”.

Although the analysis of the drug’s results is encouraging, solanezumab is in no way ready for mass production. Currently, the drug is thought to inadvertently increase “the angina, with incidence of the heart condition being 1.1 per cent in those given [the drug], compared to 0.2 per cent in the placebo group”. In addition to the presence of this negative side effect, the drug may only be effective “when given early in the disease process”, indicating that it would be incapable of reversing dementia in patients with severe manifestations of the disease.

Still, all great discoveries have to start somewhere.

The negative aspects of the revolutionary medicine have not diminished the optimism and enthusiasm that many scientists, doctors, and Alzheimer’s patients alike are expressing over the continued development of the drug.

But, as always, now it’s your turn to weigh in, Nation:

Are you excited by solanezumab?
Are you optimistic about its continued development?
Or do you think that the new drug will eventually be thrown out due to its side-effects?


  1. Naturally I am optimistic, this is one of the worst kind of diseases any intelligence appreciating intelligent creature could get. The word dementia, of which this is a form, literally means to become less and less human. Therefore it truly is a dehumanizing disease and it is a crying shame that it has taken so long before we even have a spark of hope. And this is that spark. Sadly because drug development and drug approval is such a lengthy process, it will most likely be too late for my mom. My mom was dead the moment she was diagnosed, we just have a long hard time ahead of us to say goodbye. I wish there was a way to legally say: “I don’t give a hoot, gimme that drug now, the consequences are mine to take”. But apparently we need to be protected against our own free will.

  2. Coming from a family with a history of Alzheimer’s, I view this with great optimism. My Aunt has just developed symptoms and my maternal grandfather died from complications of this horrific disease. I hope that this might be developed in time to help my mom if, god forbid, she contracts it. Regardless of that, it gives me tremendous hope that, in fifty years or so when I’m in my seventies, there might actually be a cure, and this crippling disease that has stalked my family will no longer be able to claim its victiums.