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Another Alzheimer's Drug Making Headlines

Posted Dec 02 2008 6:26pm

Another new Alzheimer’s drug (this one from TauRx Therapeutics ) could prove at least twice as effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease as current medications and significantly slow the progression of dementia, researchers say. This according to a research team at the University of Aberdeen that concluded the drug (Rember - what a great brand) slows progression of the disease by up to 81 per cent. 

Sufferers taking the drug three times a day for 50 weeks showed a slower decline in blood flow to the parts of the memory that are vital to the memory. Those taking a 60mg dose of Rember experienced an 81 per cent reduction in mental decline compared with the placebo group. Those taking Rember did not experience a significant decline in their mental function over 19 months, while those on the placebo got worse.

Experts hailed the study as a major development in the fight against Alzheimer’s, which affects an estimated 26 million people worldwide. It is projected that the number suffering from the disease will leap to over 106 million by 2050.

Here is what's cool. The drug is the first medication directly to attack the “tangles” that develop in the brains of those affected. These tangles, made up of a protein known as tau, form inside nerve cells in the brain and impair concentration and memory. The tangles first destroy the nerve cells linked to memory and then destroy neurons in other parts of the brain as the disease progresses.

Other Alzheimer's drugs have also shown early promise but failed so time will tell if this one actually works. Derek Lowe posted a very informative blog about Alzheimer's drugs in his blog In the Pipeline:

"Accumulation of amyloid protein has long been suspected as the cause of the disease, but there have always been partisans for another pathology, the neurofibrillary tangles associated with tau protein. Arguments have been going on for years – decades – about which of these has more to do with the underlying cause(s) of Alzheimer’s. Rember is the first clinical shot (that I’m aware of) at targeting tau. If the first attempt manages to show such interesting results, it’s a strong argument that tau must be important. (Other people are working in this area, too, of course, but my impression is that it's nowhere near as many as work on amyloid)." 

Here is a summary of some Alzheimer's drugs - some approved and some experimental. I'm not a Dr. and I compiled this list doing Internet research so please don't hold me to it.

Most currently approved Alzheimer's drugs are cholinesterase inhibitors including:

  • Donepezil (Aricept)  
  • Galantamine (Razadyne) 
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon) 
  • Memantine (Namenda) works by regulating the activity of glutamate, a different messenger chemical involved in learning and memory.
  • Tacrine (Cognex)

Other drugs focus on anti-amyloid and include (all experimental):

  • Tarenflurbil (Flurizan)
  • Bapineuzumab (from Elan)
  • Tramiprosate (Alzhemed)

Some researchers are beginning to focus on alternative targets to amyloid. Some of these include:

  • Dimebolin (Dimebon) - antihistamine drug first used in Russia more than two decades ago to treat alergies
  • Methylthioninium chloride (Rember) - from TauRx and described above.

I wish them all luck.

This article from Forbes discusses these drugs. Another good read is from the Alzheimer's Association   and from CNN Health.


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