Drug Shows Promise as Treatment for Advanced Alzheimer’s

Memantine, a drug that acts on a key central nervous system receptor, may help slow the progression of moderately severe to severe Alzheimer’s disease. After using memantine, patients were able “to dress themselves better, to bathe themselves better and to perform a variety of other functions in an improved fashion,” according to Dr Barry Reisberg of New York University.

Memantine may prove to be extremely significant to Alzheimer’s patients and their families. Researchers at New York University School of Medicine found that cognitive functions and daily living activities were greatly improved after six months of using the drug.

Tests of memantine represent a new approach in research in which scientists examine a different chemical and structural system, the NMDA receptor, involved in the memory process.

“Our research provided further evidence that modulation of the NMDA receptor, which is involved in memory and neuronal death, is an approach worthy of continued research, “ said Dr. Reisberg.

Until now, researchers have focused entirely on acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, which are used by people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are designed to increase the amount of acetylcholine, a substance that transmits nerve impulses, in the brain.

There are currently no approved drug treatments for later-stage Alzheimer’s patients. Memantine is only available in Germany, but researchers hope that with further extensive trials, it will receive the approval of the Federal Drug Administration by the end of the decade.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved more than 250 volunteers who have moderately severe to severe Alzheimer’s disease and was conducted over six months. The results were presented last week in Washington, D.C. at the World Alzheimer Congress 2000, the largest gathering of Alzheimer’s experts ever held.

Source: World Alzheimer Congress 2000

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