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Important facts about new Alzheimer's drug solanezumab

An experimental drug called solanezumab has demonstrated the potential to slow cognitive decline in patients with mild cases of Alzheimer's disease. NBC's Robert Bazell reports.

By Robert Bazell, NBC News correspondent

For the first time ever an experimental drug named solanezumab is showing great promise of slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease, a form of dementia affecting 36 million people worldwide and five million in the U.S.

Here are some important facts about this drug.

  • It is made by Eli Lilly
  • It is NOT on the market now and most likely will not be for years
  • The reason for that time frame is that today’s results came from a revised look at two trials that were declared failures
  • In the revision the drug seemed to help people with mild Alzheimer’s but not more advanced
  • Even with the revision the benefit was relatively small
  • The company is talking to the FDA about approval, but is very unlikely to get it yet
  • It is very likely that  results will need to be repeated in a trial designed for that purpose
  • It is important for research because it show that drugs like it that target a protein called amyloid beta that many scientists believe is the cause of the disease could work
  • It is possible that this or similar drugs will work better if they are given even earlier, but that has to be proved
  • So it is of no benefit to patients now,  but it is still a ray of hope where there has only been scientific darkness