Comment: BBC Panorama documentary on lecanemab and donanemab trials

Lecanemab Shutterstock Joshimerbin

Tonight a new Panorama documentary airs, following patients with Alzheimer’s disease who have been taking part in clinical trials for new drugs lecanemab and donanemab. Alzheimer’s Research UK has warned the NHS is not ready to roll the drugs out.

On the programme, Prof Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, said:

“There is an air of measured optimism around the arrival of new Alzheimer’s drugs lecanemab and donanemab, which could be licensed for us in the UK this year. These treatments have been hailed as a tipping point as they are the first to slow the progression of the disease.

“However, some have expressed concern about whether NHS systems are ready to roll the drugs out. We know that early diagnosis is vitally important in ensuring people who are eligible for treatment can receive the drugs. Currently, invasive lumbar punctures or expensive PET scans are the only definitive ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, and the infrastructure isn’t there for this to be possible on a large scale.

“This is why a low-cost, scalable blood test is the ultimate goal in Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and this is the focus of our world-leading Biomarker Factory at the UK Dementia Research Institute. Such a blood test would enable faster, accurate and earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease at scale, which would revolutionise dementia diagnosis and allow patients to access these new drugs at the earliest possible point in their disease progression, making them more likely to be effective.”

Article published: 12 February 2024