Leqembi: The new Alzheimer’s drug

Moira Weinstein, Staff Writer

The new drug Lecanemab, brand name Leqembi, is being studied to be released for Alzheimer’s patients. Christopher Van Dyck, M.D. of Yale’s Alzheimer’s Disease Unit was key in publishing the paper on the Phase III clinical trial, published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Treatment for this disease can be extraordinarily tricky, though the best route to prevent advancement. This drug removes a protein from the brain that progresses the disease with an IV infusion biweekly, according to Yale Medicine. 

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, which attacks daily functions and leads to the deterioration of cognitive ability. It is a disease that attacks memory and neurons that are involved in storing information, and it is debilitating to the patient and those around them.

A friend of mine explained her experience with her grandparent’s condition briefly. Something she mentioned was the heart-wrenching view of her own parents seeing their caregivers wilt away. The biggest obstacle I think the children and grandchildren of Alzheimer’s patients go through is their parent’s loss of memory that they still have, and the image of someone once so strong in such a horrific state. My friend says it was heartbreaking to see them deteriorate “when you know how they used to be so full of joy”. 

This is why the drug is so groundbreaking. Carrie McMillan of Yale Medicine says there was “a 26 percent slowing of decline in a key secondary measure of cognitive function and a 37 percent slowing of decline in a measure of daily living compared to the placebo group”. The slowing of declining function is significant because there is no cure, and preventing further decline is almost the only thing to do.

This is also important for the children of patients, as Alzheimer’s is a genetic disease, meaning it can be passed down, which is a big concern for them. The treatment is specifically meant for early stages, which can be helpful to those whose parents possess the gene, alerting them to get tested sooner rather than later, and being able to potentially be treated.

Yet, the demographic for the drug being those with early-onset Alzheimer’s is also a downside, the real problem being those declining rapidly. The development processes for these types of drugs are very slow and meticulous, as they should be. But knowing the toll it takes on families and entire communities, I hope that new drugs will follow that can target Alzheimer’s at any stage. 

In addition to this issue, there are the side effects. 26 percent of those who receive the IV get symptoms that come with any intravenous injection, such as fever and chills, or a rash. 12.6 percent of participants, however, were struck with fluid formation in the brain and 17.3 percent had brain bleeding.

While these are rare and often asymptomatic, they still present a risk. In addition, the medication advises against blood thinners, yet the symptoms caused by intravenous infusions were said to improve by things like pain relievers which are naturally blood-thinning. So there is a bit of contradiction, but the prospect of a new drug to treat an aggressive disease like Alzheimer’s is revolutionary.

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