Bad News and Goods News on Dementia

This week if you can see past the Brexit clamour two very important pieces of news about Dementia appeared. Firstly, the bad news. The fears of many people who have been trying to bring this to public attention, like the Sports Legacy Institute in the US and the Jeff Astle Foundation in the UK, that there may be a link between concussion injury in football/soccer and mortality due to dementia and other neurological illness, seems to have been realised. A team based at Glasgow University published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine examining the link found that former professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than those in the general population.

It’s not possible currently to examine the paper in full easily at the moment but one of my favourite sources for this blog  Behind the Headlines an NHS critical guide to the science that makes the news, have published their review of the paper which you can read at

https://www.nhs.uk/news/neurology/dementia-fears-for-former-footballers/

If you want to look at the abstract of the published paper you can find it at

Mackay DF, Russell ER, Stewart K, et al. (2019) Neurodegenerative Disease Mortality among Former Professional Soccer Players New England Journal of Medicine. Published online 21/10/19

So, secondly what’s the good news then? Biogen an American drug company and Eisai a Japanese company they are working with said on Wednesday that they will seek US FDA approval for a medicine to treat early Alzheimer’s disease, a landmark step toward finding a treatment that can alter the course of the most common form of dementia. The announcement caught everyone by surprise because Biogen stopped two studies of their new drug earlier this year, when partial results suggested it was not likely to be successful. It now says a new analysis of more results suggests that the drug helped to reduce a decline of thinking skills at the highest dose.

The drug, called aducanumab, aims to help the body clear harmful plaques from the brain. If they are right, this is the biggest step forward in 20 or more years as finally there may be a drug that tackles the cause of the disease. Current drugs only temporarily ease symptoms of Alzheimer’s and do not slow the loss of memory and thinking skills.

For more about the announcement see

https://metro.co.uk/2019/10/23/drug-can-slow-alzheimers-disease-soon-available-millions-10966879/

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