Clinical trials across England and Scotland are underway to investigate if an existing medicine can potentially work as a disease-modifying option for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Semaglutide works by increasing insulin secretion in people with type 2 diabetes, but the creators of the drug – pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk – have found in earlier clinical trials that it appears to increase cognition too.

What the study involves

For this phase 3 clinical trial, researchers are recruiting through Join Dementia Research to find people aged 55 – 85 with a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or early Alzheimer’s disease.

If eligible, patients in the study will be given either semaglutide or a placebo and asked to take one tablet a day.  As this is a double-blind randomised control trial, neither the patients nor the researchers will know who has the active drug and who has the placebo.

All patients will receive regular clinic visits, health checks and medical testing. They will have access to expert guidance and facilities during the study.

It is hoped that 3500 participants globally will take part over a three-year period.

What we know so far

The study’s Chief Investigator Professor Naji Tabet of Brighton and Sussex Medical School said:

“Results of the phase 1 and phase 2 trials indicate that semaglutide may have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease, but this phase 3 trial will give us a more accurate picture.

“We will measure the impact by comparing cognition tests taken at the start and end of the study and by collecting regular information about our patients’ health, cognition, ability to perform daily activities and general wellbeing.

“I would encourage anyone with early Alzheimer’s disease or MCI to consider taking part in this study.”

Requirements of participants

Participants will need to:

  • Take one tablet every day
  • Perform memory tests and questionnaires on how well they manage daily routines
  • Provide blood samples at ten of the clinic visits.
  • Undergo 1 brain MRI or CT scan to look at brain structure *
  • Undergo 1 PET brain scan or a spinal tap to test for amyloid (a protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease) *
  • Have a study partner (someone to accompany them to appointments)

* Patients will have the opportunity to discuss the results of these scans with their study doctor before taking any medication.

Inconvenience payments for patients and study partners will be made available for lengthy trial visits in addition to reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses.

Recruitment to this study closes on 31 December 2022.

To find out if you are eligible to join this study, as well as other dementia studies, sign in to your Join Dementia Research account or, if you are not already registered, sign up today.