Did you know that changes in the brain may occur 10-20 years before any symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear? A clinical trial is studying whether an investigational medicine may stop or slow down memory and thinking problems related to Alzheimer’s disease. The trial is called TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 3, and it is sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company.
See if you or a loved one may be able to help advance Alzheimer’s clinical research by joining the TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 3 study. You may receive compensation for your time and travel. The study does not require health insurance to participate.
Alzheimer’s Disease is complex, and it is therefore unlikely that any one drug or other intervention will ever successfully treat it in all people living with the disease. Still, in recent years, scientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding Alzheimer’s and in developing and testing new treatments, including several medications that are in late-stage clinical trials.
Several prescription drugs are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help people with Alzheimer’s disease. And, on June 7, 2021, FDA provided accelerated approval for the newest medication, aducanumab, which helps to reduce amyloid deposits in the brain and may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, although it has not yet been shown to affect clinical symptoms or outcomes, such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia.
Most medicines work best for people in the early or middle stages of Alzheimer’s. However, it is important to understand that none of the medications available at this time will cure Alzheimer’s.
Treatment for mild symptoms
Treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can provide people with comfort, dignity, and independence for a longer period of time and can encourage and assist their caregivers as well. Galantamine, rivastigmine, and donepezil are cholinesterase inhibitors that are prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms. These drugs may help reduce or control some cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
Scientists do not yet fully understand how cholinesterase inhibitors work to treat Alzheimer’s disease, but research indicates that they prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical believed to be important for memory and thinking. As Alzheimer’s progresses, the brain produces less and less acetylcholine, so these medicines may eventually lose their effect. Because cholinesterase inhibitors work in a similar way, switching from one to another may not produce significantly different results, but a person living with Alzheimer’s may respond better to one drug versus another.
Medications that target the underlying causes of a disease are called disease-modifying drugs or therapies. Aducanumab is the only disease-modifying medication currently approved to treat Alzheimer’s. This medication is a human antibody, or immunotherapy, that targets the protein beta-amyloid and helps to reduce amyloid plaques, which are brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s. Clinical studies to determine the effectiveness of aducanumab were conducted only in people with early-stage Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment. Researchers are continuing to study whether this medication works to affect a person’s rate of cognitive decline over time.
Before prescribing aducanumab, doctors may require PET scans or an analysis of cerebrospinal fluid to evaluate whether amyloid deposits are present in the brain. This can help doctors make an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s before prescribing the medication. Once a person is on aducanumab, their doctor or specialist may require routine MRIs to monitor for side effects such as brain swelling or bleeding in the brain.
Several other disease-modifying medications are being tested in people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s as potential treatments.