Treatment For Alzheimer’s Disease Elusive
A popular drug used to treat Alzheimer’s patients appears to provide no benefit to those who may be in the early stages of the disease, CNN reports. Although the drug is approved by the FDA for only moderate to severe cases, many physicians have been prescribing it off-label for milder cases. But their efforts are in vain, according to a study reported by CNN. “We conclude that there is a lack of efficacy in mild Alzheimer’s,” says the study’s lead researcher, Lon Schneider, M.D., a professor of psychiatry, neurology, and gerontology at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. “We think physicians, patients, and caregivers should simply know this.”
(Even so), nearly one-fifth of all people with mild Alzheimer’s received the drug in 2006, and the rates may be far higher in some hospitals and practices, according to the study, which appears in the journal Archives of Neurology.Many neurologists — 40 percent, by one estimate — even prescribe the drug for mild cognitive impairment, a condition that may or may not progress to full-blown dementia.”
In the United States, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds, and by 2050 this is expected to increase to a new case every 33 seconds, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.
The disease is currently at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans — including one in eight people aged 65 and over — living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, this is expected to jump to 16 million, and in the next 20 years it is projected that Alzheimer’s will affect one in four Americans. If that turns out to be true, it would then be more prevalent than obesity and diabetes is today!
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that develops slowly and gets worse over time. The first stages involve mild memory loss, but as the disease progresses it can make you unable to carry on a conversation or respond to your external environment. On average, 40 percent of the time a person spends with Alzheimer’s disease is spent in the most severe advanced stages of the disease, making it truly devastating.Worse yet, there is no known cure and very few treatments, and as this latest study shows, existing treatments are often of little to no benefit whatsoever.
More Evidence That Alzheimer’s Drugs Don’t Work
Memantine, brand name Namenda, is a widely used Alzheimer’s drug that is approved for moderate to severe cases. Despite this, doctors often prescribe it off-label for mild Alzheimer’s cases and even for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is frequently the prelude to Alzheimer’s.However, a new reanalysis of data from three clinical trials showed that patients with mild Alzheimer’s who took Namenda had no improvement in mental function or their ability to perform everyday tasks compared to placebo. Even among moderate to severe Alzheimer’s patients, for which the drug is approved to treat, the researchers found only “meager” improvements.
The researchers concluded:”Despite its frequent off-label use, evidence is lacking for a benefit of memantine in mild AD [Alzheimer’s disease], and there is meager evidence for its efficacy in moderate AD.”
Namenda paired with a cholinesterase inhibitor, a type of drug that may help prevent the breakdown of certain memory-influencing neurotransmitters, is the go-to treatment for Alzheimer’s, but the new study shows it likely offers little to no benefit to patients.Along with dizziness and headache, confusion is listed as one of the most common side effects of Namenda, and this is certainly the last thing a person with Alzheimer’s needs.Furthermore, cholinesterase inhibitor drugs such as Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl may do more harm than good.
This class of drugs is known to provoke slower heart rates, significantly increasing your chances of getting a permanent pacemaker, as well as increasing your risk of hip fracture.Because of the very limited treatments, and no available cure as of yet, that leaves you with just one solid solution, and that is to prevent it from happening to you in the first place.