London: British scientists have trialed a new drug that stops the worst effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.
A daily capsule of Rember, is Isaid to be more than twice as effective as current treatments and can prevent the desease from progressing, in effect stablising it.
In trials patients who tried the drug had no further significant decline in their mental function over 19 months.
Rember attacks the plaque tangles that destroy nerve cells and memory allowing the brain to recover.
The bad news is the that drug will not be available for at least four years. There are also doubts as to whether it will be available on the UK’s National Health Service following the decision not to fund another drug, Aricept, which only costs £2.50 a day.
The one-a-day pill also has the potential to be used to prevent the disease progressing at even earlier stages ie when there are no symptoms.
The Rember trial was carried out by a team at the University of Aberdeen and the new research was presented at the International Conference on Alzheimers disease in Chicago, involved 321 people with mild and moderate Alzheimers disease in the UK and Singapore.
They were divided into four groups, three taking different doses of rember and a fourth group taking a placebo or dummy capsule.
After 50 weeks, those with both mild and moderate Alzheimers who were taking rember experienced 81 per cent less mental decline compared with those on the placebo.
Those taking rember did not experience any significant decline in their mental function over 19 months, while those on the placebo got worse.
The results suggest the drug is about two-and-a-half times more effective than existing drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors.
Images of the brain showed rember had its biggest effect in the parts linked to memory, where the density of tau tangles is greatest, with better blood flow to these areas.
The drug works by dissolving the tangle of tau fibres which releases waste products that kill nerve cells, and by preventing the fibres from becoming tangled.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Donald Mowat, who monitored the progress of patients, said they were more confident, better able to cope with daily life and not experiencing the level of mental decline they had expected.
The trial was a Phase 2 study, which checks the safety and efficacy of the drug, but if a large-scale Phase 3 trial due next year repeats the findings, the drug could be available for prescribing by 2012. At the same time, the research team is investigating a way of diagnosing Alzheimers at its earliest stages when tau tangles are first being formed in the brain.
People may have these tangles in their 50s, long before symptoms develop, and the researchers hope the drug could be used as a preventive treatment.
Professor Wischik co-founded TauRx Therapeutics, which is developing the treatment.
Professor Stephen Logan, professor of neuroscience and TauRx board member, said: This is a fantastic breakthrough and very exciting.
Patients have been doing well for 18 or 19 months. They are continuing to take the drug and will probably do so until there is no benefit or they start to decline.