“Great first step”: The drug slowing decline in people with Alzheimer's disease

In astonishing news, there is a drug currently in clinical trial testing that seems to indicate the possibility to slow decline in people in Alzheimer’s disease – something that is a great first step in tackling the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects up to 1 in 10 Australians over 65 years of age. This increases to 3 in 10 over 85 years, according to estimates from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

"It's not a cure. It's not going to be a miracle drug. It is a great first step," Dr Douglas Scharre, a neurologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told KDKA-TV.

Participants in the trial received the medicine donanemab by infusion once a month.


More than 1180 participants, who had an intermediate level of the protein tau (a protein prevalently associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease) and clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, were assessed for how the drug altered their measure of cognition and ability to partake in daily activities, known as the Alzheimer’s Disease Rating Scale (iADRS).

Phase 3 trial results, released by drug company Eli Lilly but yet to be peer-reviewed, show that the drug significantly slowed cognitive and functional decline, with a 35% slowing of decline.

Meanwhile, 47% of participants on the drug showed no decline at one year, compared to 29% of the placebo cohort.

Professor Christopher Rowe, Director of the Australian Dementia Network at the University of Melbourne and Dementia Clinical Champion at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, said donanemab has the added benefit of requiring less frequent dosing than current medication and appears to work faster, meaning treatment can be stopped after 12 months in many patients.

“Importantly, the donanemab trial showed greater benefit in those with lower brain tau protein levels. Tau buildup follows amyloid buildup in Alzheimer’s disease so this is important evidence that the earlier treatment is given, the greater the benefit,” Professor Rowe said.

“With new blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease emerging, there is a real possibility that very early detection and treatment will reduce the prevalence of severe dementia and turn the tide on this devastating illness.”


The drug has yet to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

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A special thanks to our contributors

Caroline Egan

DCM Media, agedcare101

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

Ian Horswill


Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

Jill Donaldson


Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.