Monday, July 21, 2008

Several New Alzheimer's Studies Report Results

Some interesting Alzheimer's disease news recently. New Scientist reports that an old Russian allergy treatment, Dimebon, has yielded the best results of any drug ever tested against Alzheimer's, raising average scores of practical cognitive abilities almost seven points above the placebo. The study was placebo-controlled and used 120 patients over the span of a year.

At the same time, Alzheimer's patients given a vaccine to remove amyloid beta plaques from their brains successfully had the plaques removed, but doing so did not alleviate or reverse any symptoms. The results suggest that the plaques are causing inflammation in the brain, but removing the plaques after the inflammation does not appear to help. Preventing the amyloid beta plaques from forming, however, may help prevent some of the damage and protect cognitive function.

Speaking of inflammation, another study performed in Los Angeles revealed the possibility of dramatic and fast improvement in language recall in patients given an injection of the anti-inflammatory drug etanercept, marketed as Enbrel. This study was a follow-up to a single-patient study reported in January and involved only 12 patients. Critics caution that the small size of the study and the fact that it was neither blinded nor placebo-controlled call into question the validity of the results. They also point out that the only tests that have shown positive results come from the researcher who has patented the process and charges between $10,000 and $40,000 per treatment.

Still, if anti-inflammatory drugs can prevent, reduce, or reverse the inflammation caused by the amyloid beta plaques, it would be a remarkable breakthrough in treatment of this debilitating disease. Hopefully soon an independent lab will follow up this study with a large group, placebo-controlled, double-blinded study to confirm or debunk these results.

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