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Experimental Alzheimer's Drug Shows Promise

While not a 'wonder drug,' medication may help slow memory loss, researcher says
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- A small Finnish study is raising hopes for a new drug designed to help stave off memory loss among patients struggling with moderate Alzheimer's disease.

Still in the preliminary stages of investigation, the drug -- called ORM-12741 -- showed promise during a three-month trial involving 100 such patients, half of whom were given the medication on top of their current drug treatment.

By the end of the study, memory scores plummeted by 33 percent among the 50 patients who were given a dummy pill (placebo) rather than the new drug, while patients who took the new drug showed a 4 percent improvement on the tests.

"The bottom line is that this was the first study investigating [effectiveness] of a drug with a novel mechanism of action in patients with Alzheimer's disease," said study lead author Dr. Juha Rouru, who heads the central nervous system therapy area at Orion Pharma in Turku, Finland.

"The results were clearly positive," he said, adding they were seen particularly on important episodic memory, which involves remembering events and personal experiences. Orion, the maker of ORM-12741, funded the research.

Rouru and his colleagues are scheduled to present their work in San Diego at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, which starts Saturday.

By 2050, as the elderly population increases, an estimated 13.8 million Americans will have Alzheimer's, a progressive brain disease that robs people of their memory and the ability to perform even simple everyday tasks. There is no cure for the disease, and drugs aimed at controlling the debilitating symptoms are only moderately effective, Rouru said.

With that in mind, the team set out to assess the potential of ORM-12741, the first drug to target a specific receptor in the brain, called alpha-2C. This receptor is thought to play a role in the brain's "fight or flight" response to stress, and the authors noted that the new drug's impact on alpha-2C had shown promise in prior animal studies.

All the patients in the study were already taking a cholinesterase drug. Some were also using memantine, another type of Alzheimer's medication.

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