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Eli Lilly’s experimental Alzheimer’s medicine donanemab showed some of the best early results seen by pharmaceutical researchers in the field. What divides many researchers is whether that is a reason for excitement or not.

The results, released Saturday at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s & Parkinson Diseases  and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are from a Phase 2 study, usually used by pharmaceutical companies to test whether a drug merits testing in a larger Phase 3 study that could result in approval. While top-line results were previously outlined in a Lilly press release, they represent a high watermark for studies in Alzheimer’s. This is the first time a Phase 2 study of a drug that attempts to slow Alzheimer’s, not just allay patients’ symptoms, has had a positive outcome.


The 131 participants in the trial who received donanemab did not see their conditions improve; rather they saw a slowdown in their cognitive decline. Researchers said that, on the 144-point Integrated Alzheimer’s Disease Research Scale, these patients saw a decline of 6.86 points compared to a 10-point decline in those who received placebo. The changes were seen over 76 weeks.

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