Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

New Steps Toward Stopping Alzheimer’s

Results Still to Come for a Highly Watched Drug
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 11, 2007 - Scientists reported some progress in their search for new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease Monday, even while researchers studying a closely watched new drug said they must rework their data to determine if it is effective.

Researchers attending a major scientific meeting in Washington have not achieved any “magic bullets” against the brain-wasting effects of Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time, they say they’re optimistic that a series of new treatments could prove to slow or reverse the disease.

Scientists studying one promising new drug, called Alzhemed, had hoped to announce major new findings this week. But the study leader announced that statistical issues would force scientist to reanalyze their results before determining if the drug works.

Reworking of data is often a red flag for regulators approving new drugs because it can be a sign the product did not work as hoped under a company’s original study design. But researcher Paul Aisen, MD, insisted at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association that the move was part of the overall study plan.

“This process does not indicate that the drug didn’t work,” said Aisen, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University, who is leading the Alzhemed study for Neurochem Inc.

The drug works in theory by blocking the formation of amyloid, an inflammation-causing protein known to be a key cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Aisen suggested that some early data were “in favor of treatment” instead of placebo pills, but he said he would not speculate further on whether the drug appears effective.

“At this point, conclusions can’t be drawn,” he said.

If the drug proves worthy, it could be a major step in Alzheimer’s treatment. Existing drugs on the market mostly slow the disease’s unrelenting progression or ease some symptoms. Observers eagerly await Alzhemed’s results because it could actually be a breakthrough in treating the underlying disease itself.

But for now, that breakthrough remains unproven.

Sam Gandy, MD, who leads the Alzheimer’s Association scientific advisory council, called the delay “science as usual.”

“This is exactly what we should expect: incremental progress,” said Sam Gandy, “We don’t expect there to be one single compound” that will prove to be a cure for the disease.

Russian Drug Advances

Researchers are also eyeing another drug, called Dimebon, which is also showing some promise in early clinical trials.

Researchers have observed that the drug can delay the onset of memory loss and deteriorating functioning that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Of a total of 183 Russian patients, Alzheimer's patients who used the drug three times per day had better memory scores after three months than those who took placebo.

Dimebon was sold as an antihistamine in Russia during the 1980s. Regulators there then found that it has many of the same chemical properties as already-approved Alzheimer’s drugs like Aricept. It is now slated for a major clinical study in the U.S. beginning next year.

Rachelle Doody, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who leads the drug’s American research team, said patients who took the drug also showed no change in their ability to perform normal activities like cleaning the house or talking on the phone, “while those on placebo have had a slow but steady progression” of their disease.

Today on WebMD

alzheimer's disease warning signs
ARTICLE
Alzheimers Overview
SLIDESHOW
 
Best Memory Boosting Games
ARTICLE
mri scan of human brain
QUIZ
 
senior man
ARTICLE
daughter and father
ARTICLE
 
Making Diagnosis
Article
Colored mri of brain
ARTICLE
 
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
VIDEO
senior woman with lost expression
ARTICLE
 
Woman comforting ailing mother
ARTICLE
Alzheimers Dementia
ARTICLE