New drug to combat Alzheimer’s disease

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Donanemab is currently in the headlines as a drug that appears to slow down memory and thinking decline in people living with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Donanemab is a disease-modifying treatment. This means that rather than only relieving the symptoms, it can also attack the root cause. In addition to donanemab, another medication for Alzheimer’s is called lecanemab and was FDA approved in January 2023. These two medications work similarly and with similar efficacy and side effect profiles so it is helpful to talk about them as a group rather than individually.

Donanemab is a revolutionary treatment in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease according to Dr. Meredith Wicklund, the Senior Associate Consultant for the Mayo Clinic Arizona.

“This medication was studied in individuals with what we refer to as ‘mild cognitive impairment,’ which means that they have objective beyond normal for aging memory changes but mild enough that though they notice it day-to-day, it’s not having any functional impact. They are fully capable of doing that for themselves,” said Dr. Wicklund.

Individuals who tested donanemab in a study took the treatments for 12-18 months, and treatments targeted the amyloid proteins, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease. One of the primary side effects noted with this treatment is swelling of the brain. Dr. Wicklund said brain swelling can cause serious symptoms but not in every patient.

Donanemab is currently being administered as an IV treatment taken once a month. For any older individual who believes they are experiencing cognitive decline, Dr. Wicklund recommends visiting a neurologist to test to see if there is a dramatic cognitive decline.

Dr. Meredith Wicklund, Senior Associate Consultant for the Mayo Clinic Arizona

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