Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

July 24, 2006

A Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:36 pm

I’m checking around to see if anyone I know can verify if this is for real. (Translation: I sent an e-mail to one guy I know who used to do research in this field.) If you have any insights or information, please chime in by posting a comment.

This is from the Herald-Sun of Melbourne, Australia:

New hope for Alzheimer’s cure

By Robyn Riley, July 23, 2006

In a world first, Melbourne scientists have developed a once-a-day pill that they claim may cure Alzheimer’s disease. Human trials of the drug start next month.

The drug — called PBT2 — was developed by a team from the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria in collaboration with Melbourne-based Prana Biotechnology.

“It is a major breakthrough and very much a Melbourne discovery,” said Prof George Fink, the director of the Mental Health Research Institute.

“Though much depends on the next phase of human clinical trials . . . early results indicate this drug offers hope to people with Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

The revolutionary drug stops the buildup of a protein called amyloid.

Many scientists accept amyloid is a major cause of Alzheimer’s as the protein is thought to cause the brain to “rust”.

Prof Fink said the drug could significantly prevent Alzheimer’s developing or delay the on-set of the brain disease for many years.

Early clinical testing has confirmed the drug is fast-acting. Levels of amyloid dropped by 60 per cent within 24 hours of a single dose.

It found also that PBT2 suppresses the impairment of memory function.

More human studies begin in Sweden next month and Australians will join a major international trial of the drug next year.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal brain disease. It is the major form of dementia, a disease that affects one in four Australians over the age of 60.

Prof Fink said the institute was optimistic about the results of clinical trials and said the drug could be on the market within four years.

(Hat tip: Slashdot)

The “John Stossel question” is, how many people will suffer, die, or go beyond the point of help in those four years it takes to get the drug through regulatory hurdles? I’m not saying I’d take the drug on the say-so of a newspaper article, but that seems and awfully long time to test a drug for a disease that can be fatal or completely debilitating within four years, or even less. Especially when you consider that the drug has already passed Phase I clinical trials — that is, it has already been found to be safe.

So if it’s not likely to hurt people, and no other effective treatments are available, what is the problem with making the drug available now, to patients willing to take it without the Phase II trials showing whether it works or not?

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