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New Alzheimer's Drug May Be Safer Than Thought

Drug-Related Brain Swelling May Resolve Over Time, Research Suggests

Swelling Wanes Over Time continued...

The patients took bapineuzumab, which is given by infusion every 13 weeks, for an average of about two-and-one-half years.

Brain swelling was the most common side effect of treatment, occurring in 9% of patients. Overall, about one in four participants experienced some effect that was thought to be related to bapineuzumab; 85% of them were mild to moderate.

Salloway says no conclusions about the drug's effectiveness can be drawn from these studies. Effectiveness data, from the phase III studies, should become available next year.

Ironically, brain swelling appears to be a sign the drug is doing what it is supposed to do in the early stages of treatment, Salloway says.

"Bapineuzumab mobilizes amyloid from the brain and it goes to the blood vessels. In people with a lot of amyloid, it might [clog] the blood vessels early on, causing some leakage of fluid [that can lead to edema]. Then, as the drug clears more amyloid away, there is not much leakage," he says.

Mary Sano, MD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, says that although the studies "help us to better understand the long-term safety of bapineuzumab, we still don't know anything about its potential positive effects."

The ongoing studies are important, she tells WebMD, as "they will hopefully tell us if going after and ridding the brain of amyloid can be helpful to patients."

The study was funded by Pfizer and Jannsen Pharmaceuticals. 

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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