Donanemab: full results of the new Alzheimer’s treatment trial [Updated July 2023] 

Back in May 2023, we first wrote this article about the exciting results from the trial of a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease – donanemab. Now the full results of that trial have been released, and they look remarkably positive. 

Manufacturers Eli Lilly released the results of the TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 2 Randomized Clinical Trial at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam in early July. Their research team posed one key question:

“Does donanemab, a monoclonal antibody designed to clear brain amyloid plaque, provide clinical benefit in early symptomatic Alzheimer disease?”

The full trial results showed that:

“Donanemab could slow mental decline caused by Alzheimer’s by 36% and could delay losing the ability to perform daily activities by up to 40%.” 

The 18-month long phase 3 trial across 277 medical research centres and hospital in 8 different countries showed that amongst those with early symptoms. The 36% decline improves on the results of trials of a similar treatment, lecanemab, which slowed the rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s by 27%

What is donanemab?

Donanemab is a new antibody drug that slows cognitive decline by removing beta amyloid from plaque buildups in the brain of patients. Two previous drugs designed to treat those with Alzheimers, lecanemab (Leqembi) and aducanumab (Aduhelm) both received accelerated approval by the US FDA. Eli Lilly, the manufacturers of donanemab, is seeking that same approval.

As Cathy Barrick, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Ontario said:

“Our federal and provincial governments must get to work immediately to prepare for the arrival of new treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Not a cure

As we’ve said before, monoclonal antibody treatment are NOT a cure. As the Alzheimer Society Canada Canada website explains:

“This drug is only for patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia stage of Alzheimer’s disease. It is not for people in the later stages of that disease. And it is not for people with other forms of dementia.”

An article at points out, that no new drug is without its risks:

“(The) preliminary donanemab results also reveal a sobering risk of brain swelling and hemorrhaging, side effects that … may be linked to two—perhaps three—deaths in the clinical trial and that echo hazards seen with lecanemab.”

Tau and tangles

The donanemab trial also looked at another brain protein, tau.

“Unlike beta amyloid, which forms plaques outside brain cells, tau malfunctions inside neurons, becoming enmeshed in clumps known as tangles. Their presence tends to indicate more advanced disease.”

Alzheimer’s medications in Canada

At present, four well-established treatments are available in Canada:

  • Aricept™ (brand name) or Donepezil (generic name)
  • Reminyl ER™ (brand name) or Galantamine (generic name)
  • Exelon™ (brand name) or Rivastigmine (generic name)
  • Ebixa® (brand name) or Memantine (generic name)

The first three are for those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, whilst the fourth is for those with moderate to advanced Alzheimer’s.

Priorities for research into dementia

A study conducted by the Canadian Dementia Priority Setting Partnership asked Canadians what their priorities were for those undertaking dementia research. The resulting Top 10 Dementia Priorities included both medical and social aspects, and was topped not by the search for a new treatment, but more about the treatment of those with dementia by society:

  1. Addressing stigma
  2. Emotional well-being
  3. Impact of early treatment
  4. Health system capacity
  5. Caregiver support
  6. Access to information and services post-diagnosis
  7. Care provider education
  8. Dementia-friendly communities
  9. Implementation of best practices for care
  10. Non-drug approaches to managing symptoms
Home care for those living with dementia

At Vytality at Home, we offer home care services for those living with dementia. Our home care can provide the support and practical help those with dementia need to continue living in their own home for longer.

If you’re caring for someone with dementia, regular home care provision can help you too. Our expert caregivers can provide much-needed respite from caregiving, and give you time for yourself, knowing that your loved one is safe and well looked after. To discuss your home care requirements:

539, 5940 Macleod Trail SWCalgary, AB