Jab to halt Alzheimer’s on way

Zurich: An injection which halts the brain disease Alzheimer’s is being trialled by Swedish patients and could be available within a six years.

The drug works by breaking up amyloid playques – a sticky protein that attaches itself to the brain cells responsible for communication, causing memory loss and other distressing symptoms.

The drug has been developed by Zurich-based biotechnology company Cytos, which has already sold the patent for CAD106 to pharma giant Novartis.

Scientists believe that CAD106 will prevent the elderly reaching the final stages of the illness, in which patients become totally dependent.

Alzheimer’s is on the increase in developed countries as people live longer and the exact cause is unknown. It is estimated there are 25 million sufferers worldwide. Current drug therapies can delay symptoms but the new vaccine would hold the disease at bay, although it would not be able to restore damaged brain tissue.

Early tests on mice have shown that the vaccine is efficient at breaking up amyloid plaque.When the jab was given to mice suffering from a disease similar to Alzheimer’s, 80 per cent of the patches of amyloid protein were broken up.

The vaccine is now being tried out on 60 elderly Swedish patients in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s. Half of the men and women are being given the vaccine while half are being given dummy jabs.

Although the year-long trial is designed to show that the treatment is safe, the researchers will also look at its effect on the patients’ symptoms.

In the UK, the Alzheimer’s Society is challenging the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – the medicines watchdog – over its ruling that three drugs, Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl will be available only to NHS patients with moderate symptoms, while a new drug called Ebixa is banned for all. The AS is taking NICE to the High Court on Monday to challenge the decision not to give the drugs which cost just £2.50 a day.