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Promising Alzheimer's Drug Attacks Plaque

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 12:04 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Dementia, Obesity

A new drug that works on plaque accumulation in Alzheimer's brains is under develoment by Wyeth.



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ Alzheimer’s in stages/ author: NASA 


A clinical study on a new Alzheimer’s disease drug by Wyeth shows promise, says the drug maker.

The drug is called bapineuzumab and is the most promising among 23 drugs that Wyeth hopes to develop to fight the emergence of Alzheimer’s.

Wyeth says that the drug improved thinking among patients who did not carry the gene ApoE4.  40 to 70 percent of Alzheimer’s patients are non carriers.

The ApoE4 gene variant is believes to increase the risk of developing the disease by as much as tenfold.

The disappointment is that the latest study on the drug found it did not meet its intended goal of helping patients improve on several tests designed to measure cognitive decline.

Bapineuzumab is designed to remove the amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and cause cell death.  Eli Lilly and Pfizer, are testing similar approaches.

Alzheimer’s is measured by a decline in cognitive functioning. Anything higher than two points is considered clinically significant.  Wyeth researchers found that among Alzheimer’s patients over a period of 18 months, the average decline on bapineuzumab was 2 to 2.5 points. 

Alzheimers can decline measurable cognitive functioning 6.5 points in 18 months.

The drug does not seem to have the same outcome on patient with the ApoE4 gene.

A phase three study on the drug, which Wyeth is testing with Elan Corporation, will eventually involve 4,100 Alzheimer’s patients at 350 sites around the country. Approval could bring in an estimated $5 billion a year, according to Forbes talking to Wall Street forcasters.   

Speaking to the New York Times, a drug analyst gives bapineuzumab a 30 percent chance of making it to the market.

The former head of Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health, Zaven Khachaturian, believes the disease results from a complex interaction of many genes. It’s theorized that those with ApoE4 are less able to repair a brain injured by the buildup of amyloid plaques in their blood vessels and brains.

Diet, exercise, not smoking, and keeping mentally active all fight Alzheimer’s disease. Testing for ApoE4 is one measure of early onset Alzheimer's.

USA Today profiles a 51-year-old woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. Patty Smith was a top sales consultant for a bank. She was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s even though she has no family history.

Early onset is dementia diagnosed before the age of 65, and makes up about 10 percent of Americans.

The numbers are rising. By the year 2050, it is estimated there will be as many as 16 million with Alzheimer’s disease, up from five million today.  #

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