When an “AARP Bulletin” arrived in my e-mailbox, I literally caught my breath at the headline, “Closing In on Alzheimer’s: Finally, new drugs offer real hope for reversing the disease,” had me clicking and reading.
“Reversing” was the first word that excited me. Until now, drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease have worked for some, to slow the progress. But only for a time. When the drugs stop working, the person generally ends up at the same stage of the disease they would have been in without them. In other words, the drugs help some people lead a better quality life for a time, and that is good. But, they haven’t been able to reverse the downward spiral.
Now, according to this article, “scientists are expected to announce final test results for the first in a whole new generation of drugs designed to attack the underlying cause of Alzheimer's disease — medicines that offer what one expert calls ‘genuine, tangible, quantifiable hope’ for those with mild to moderate forms of the illness.”
The article, at aarp.org, is so packed with information that readers will want to read it in detail. However, the words “disease modifying” are used, and that is the cause of my excitement. Nine new drugs are in Phase III clinical trials, the last step before a drug goes for FDA approval. According to the article, few drugs make it past Phase II.
The article states that “This next generation of drugs is designed to prevent, destroy and clean out deposits of beta-amyloid plaque that kill the brain's nerve cells, leading to the devastating loss of memory, reason and, ultimately, life that characterizes Alzheimer's.”
David Morgan, director of basic neuroscience research at the University of South Florida in Tampa is quoted as saying, "We're not going to find one magic bullet, but I'm very optimistic we're going to see one or more of these therapeutic approaches work."
Some new trials are looking at other common diseases that affect aging patients, such as heart disease and diabetes, and their relationship to Alzheimer’s. Trials have begun testing cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and diabetes drugs to see if the affect Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s is a word that has, over the last years, become part of main-stream American language. It’s no longer just a medical term. It’s not mispronounced as often as it once was (old-timers disease, anyone?).
There’s good reason for this. People are living longer, thus more are living to develop Alzheimer’s. More adult children are becoming caregivers to these folks. It’s not something that only happens to “other people” anymore. AD is part of our culture. The bad news is obvious – more people living with the disease. The good news? This means more support for research and studies, which, in turn, brings hope for prevention and a cure.
Published On: June 14, 2007