Aduhelm (aducanumab) first Alzheimer’s drug

Context

  • Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved new drug ‘Aduhelm’ (aducanumab) for Alzheimer’s disease.

Aduhelm (aducanumab)

  • It is a monoclonal antibody that is designed to reduce the presence of amyloid beta, a protein that forms plaques in the brain.
  • It aims at altering the course of the disease by slowing the deterioration of brain function.
  • The drug is to be given as a monthly intravenous infusion.

    Aduhelm
    Source: NewIndianExpress

  • The drug was tested in patients at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s before the disease had a major impact in their ability to care for themselves.
  • It was not tested in people who had progressed to moderate dementia i.e. a state in which the patients lose the ability to care for and feed themselves.
  • It is a novel drug that is designed to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and not a cure.
  • Aduhelm is designed to target amyloid beta, a protein that forms sticky deposits or plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid is thought to begin forming years before any signs of memory loss appear, making treatment as early as possible most likely to provide benefit.
  • The drug is designed to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, allowing patients to remain as self-sufficient as possible for as long as possible. It is not a cure.

Side effects of Aduhelm

  • In clinical trials, some patients given the highest dose of the drug experienced brain swelling, and had to be monitoried.
  • The risk was highest in patients with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s. Headache is also a reported side effect of the drug.

Back to Basics

Alzheimer’s disease

  • Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of conditions that involve a loss of cognitive functioning.
  • Alzheimer’s dementia is the most common type and involves plaques and tangles forming in the brain.
  • It is an accelerated ageing of certain neurons in the brain that are concerned with storage and processing of memory.
  • Forgetfulness and memory problems are often early symptoms.
    • After prolonged illness, patients tend to become confused, may lose their way around familiar places, and have difficulties with planning and completing simple tasks.
  • It is the accumulation of the debris caused by the breakdown of neurons in the brain, leading to plaque formation.

Statistics on Alzheimer’s disease

  • According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates for 2017, dementia affects approximately 50 million people worldwide.
  • In India, it is estimated that 5.3 million people (1 in 27) above the age of 60 have dementia in 2020.
    • It is projected to rise to 7.6 million by 2030.

Source: IE


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