WKYT Investigates: Sanders-Brown using drug to treat dementia

Neurologists at the University of Kentucky are in the spotlight once again. Their work with the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging helped a little-known drug gain big attention.
WKYT Investigates: Sanders-Brown using drug to treat dementia
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 3:26 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Dr. Jim Jackson and Mike Brown are participants in a study tracking the effects of a drug called Lecanemab. Their wives, friends for more than 40 years, started noticing small signs of dementia in their husbands.

“Jim and Mike were both so interested in participating in a study that might help future generations,” explains Sharon Jackson.

“And so they were both tested to get into this study. They wanted you at a particular place, and fortunately, they were both at the same place, and so we were fortunate to get in together,” notes Deanie Brown. The couples carpool one hour and fifteen minutes west, to Lexington. “It would be difficult I think to make that drive by ourselves every other week. And so doing it with friends always makes things more fun, even if they’re not fun things.”

Lecanemab only recently received accelerated approval from the FDA. Medicare won’t yet cover its cost - they want traditional approval first.

Early tests show Lecanemab can remove amyloid plaques from patients’ brains. Those plaques, doctors say, play a pivotal role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Getting Lecanemab to the general population is only part of the ongoing project for the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. Figuring out how long and with what frequency the medicine works is another.

“The clinical trials themselves were 18 months in duration. Is 18 months all that we need to administer until we’ve cleaned amyloid out of the brain, or does medication need to be used for a more prolonged period of time to sustain the benefits seen with the medication?,” questions Dr. Gregory Jicha. “We know that this can slow disease progression by 27% to 40% depending on the different endpoints that you’re looking at, and for disease that has a ten to 12-year course, slowing it by a third or a quarter is tremendous. That buys years by our projections.”

The Jacksons and Browns are hopeful.