Researchers around the world are working feverishly to develop a drug that will prevent or cure Alzheimer's. There's a lot of pressure to do so, and only some of the pressure is a financial windfall for the company who develops the first drug with one of these effects.
The fact that people are living longer than before, often because they have survived other diseases that once killed people at a younger age, underscores the need to get a handle on Alzheimer's since everyone's chance of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with age. Add to that the fact that waves of aging baby boomers will be rolling into the realm of the aged population, and globally we are looking at astronomical numbers of elders who could, theoretically, develop the disease.
If a way to stem the development of Alzheimer's isn't found, we will face medical costs beyond anyone's imagination.
Gloom and doom? Not totally. The article, "Drug offers new Alzheimer's hope," on Guardian.co.uk, informs us of a drug that's been used for many years that is showing great promise in Alzheimer's prevention. And that's great news on more than one front.
Naturally, the knowledge that there is a drug in the pipeline that could prevent the disease would cause great excitement. But this drug is available now. There's no need to wait for long safety trials. It's here.
This drug, called valproate, has been a treatment of choice for many patients with epilepsy. According to the article, "A drug commonly used to control epilepsy could soon have a new role as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have found that sodium valproate, marketed in Britain as Epilim, stimulates the body's natural defenses against the disease."
Valproate has been found to boost the production of an enzyme that prevents the accumulation of proteins in brain cells. These protein accumulations are known as plaques and are have been shown by researchers to trigger Alzheimer's disease.
The article goes on to say, "Crucially, valproate has already been passed by Britain's stringent drug safety watchdog as an epilepsy drug, and could be brought into widespread use fairly rapidly if research results are confirmed..."
Many researchers have been looking for drugs that can destroy the plaques after they have begun to build up in the brain. However, these researchers took the opposite approach and looked for a way to stop the buildup before it begins by "reboosting production of Nep, the brain's own anti-amyloid agent."
The article stresses that there is still more work to do and more trials to see if their test results hold up, however they are very excited because valproate is a "well-tested and well-tolerated drug that has been given to patients with epilepsy for several decades."
I looked up the drug valproate on the Internet, and found many articles about it. I also found many lists of some rather formidable side effects. However, all drugs have side effects. And many people, especially those with genetic links to Alzheimer's disease, would risk the side effects to ward off Alzheimer's disease.
It remains to be seen if more studies will show valproate effective. However it is exciting to know that this drug, already on the market, may be one of many on the horizon that will help those destined to live with the disease. We'll be watching this research closely.
Published On: December 10, 2008