At Novo Nordisk, we are acting on our purpose to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases by expanding our commitment in areas of high unmet need, including Alzheimer’s disease. This is a disease that impacts millions of people worldwide,1 and we welcome you to learn more about its causes, symptoms and how to support a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, while also discovering our research and development efforts to help address the unmet medical need in this disease area.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys a person’s memory, thinking skills and other cognitive functions.1,2 It is a progressive disease, which means that it worsens over time, eventually leaving those affected with the disease unable to carry out simple daily activities.1
These changes in memory and cognitive functions are due to nerve cells (called neurons) in the brain becoming damaged and destroyed.1,2 A healthy brain contains tens of billions of neurons,3 whose main function is to transmit information between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to the muscles and organs of the body.4 In Alzheimer’s disease, damage becomes widespread as nerve cells stop functioning and die, thereby disrupting the communication between neurons.1
Initially, cognitive decline that leads to symptoms, such as memory loss, are often mistaken for normal signs of ageing.1,5 Therefore, it is important to discuss with your doctor any early signs and symptoms that you suspect could be unrelated to normal ageing and due to early Alzheimer’s disease.
Though you may hear these terms being used together, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not the same thing.
Dementia is not a specific disease, but a general term describing a group of symptoms that over time will impact memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities.1,7
While dementia has many causes, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia causes globally.1,5 Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can show symptoms of dementia, and this is known as Alzheimer’s dementia. However, not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s disease.1
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can progress slowly over several years, and they are sometimes mistaken for normal signs of ageing.1,5 As a consequence, some people in the early stages of disease may not realise that they are experiencing symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease and therefore delay seeing a doctor.1,5
So, what are some of the most common early symptoms of Alzheimer’s
1. Forgetting recent conversations or events
2. Misplacing items
3. Forgetting the names of places and objects
4. Trouble thinking of the right word
5. Asking questions repetitively
6. Showing poor judgment or difficulty in making decisions
7. Mood changes, such as increasing anxiety or agitation
While we have outlined some of the differences in the resource below, it can still be hard to tell apart normal ageing and early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. If you or someone you know are concerned about experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, talk to your doctor.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease,5 though today’s therapies can still help treat symptoms and improve quality of life for those living with the disease.1,2 In 2021, an intravenous (IV) treatment was approved in the U.S. for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease with further evidence needed to confirm its clinical benefit to treat symptoms.11
At Novo Nordisk, we are entering phase 3 development in Alzheimer’s disease to advance the search for a life-changing treatment for those living with this disease and their loved ones.
1. 2021 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimers Dement. 2021;17(3):327-406. doi:10.1002/alz.12328
2. Hung SY, Fu WM. Drug candidates in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. J Biomed Sci. 2017;24:47. doi:10.1186/s12929-017-0355-7
3. Azevedo FAC, Carvalho LRB, Grinberg LT, et al. Equal numbers of
neuronal and nonneuronal cells make the human brain an isometrically
primate brain. J Comp Neurol. 2009;513(5):532-541. doi:10.1002/cne.21974
4. Neurons: What are they and how do they work? Published December 7, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320289
5. Gauthier S, Rosa-Neto P, Morais J, Webster C. World Alzheimer
Report 2021: Journey through the Diagnosis of Dementia. London,
Alzheimer’s Disease International; 2021. https://www.alzint.org/resource/world-alzheimer-report-2021/
6. Aisen PS, Cummings J, Jack CR, et al. On the path to 2025:
understanding the Alzheimer’s disease continuum. Alzheimers Res Ther.
7. Alzheimer’s Association. What is dementia? Accessed December 13, 2021. https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia
8. World Health Organisation. Dementia. WHO factsheets. Accessed December 13, 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia
9. National Institute on Aging. NIH. What are the signs of
Alzheimer’s disease? Accessed December 13, 2021. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/whatare-
10. Alzheimer’s Association. 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Accessed December 13, 2021. https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs
11. FDA. FDA’s decision to approve new treatment for Alzheimer’s
disease. FDA. Published online July 6, 2021. Accessed February 2,
12. Division UNP. World Population Prospects 2019. 2021.
13. Alzheimer’s Society. Dementia UK Second Edition. Available from: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/59437/1/Dementia_UK_Second_edition-Overview.pdf Last accessed: July 2021.