One of the most daunting things about an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is that there has, up to now, been no cure for the disease. Different medications and therapeutic interventions have been used to help delay the progression of memory loss, confusion, and dementia that accompany an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and other early interventions have suggested that there may be ways to prevent or delay the onset of the disease. However, once a person is diagnosed, the reality has been that Alzheimer’s would continue to progress, at different speeds for different patients, and that, if the patient’s life expectancy was sufficient, he or she would eventually be robbed of many of the memories that contribute to their being. No wonder that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is often overwhelming, not just for patients facing the loss of their memories, but also for family members who watch as a disease slowly robs them of a family member.
However, Biogen Idec has offered some exciting new research about an experimental drug it is testing: BllB037. One of the signs of Alzheimer’s is the appearance of amyloid plaques in the brain, though whether the plaques in the brain cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s or are themselves a symptom of the disorder, is not fully understood.
In clinical trials, BllB037 has been shown to bind to amyloid plaques and clear them from the brain. The process appears to work over time and is also dose-dependent, meaning that the longer that the patient is on the drug and the more of the drug consumed, the greater the impact on the plaque. While the plaque findings are promising, the real hope comes with BllB037’s impact on cognition; in a 54 week study, the drug showed positive effects on cognition.
While the drug has shown some of the same side-effects (find details at http://sideeffectsofxarelto.org/xarelto-lawsuits/) as other amyloid-clearing drugs, it appears to be within safe parameters to continue research on whether the drug could be used for therapeutic purposes. If so, the drug may be able to offer something to families that most Alzheimer’s drugs do not: something more than maintenance, but the ability to reverse the course of the disease. If the drug can offer this, even if only to a subset of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, then it could be the most significant breakthrough to ever impact Alzheimer’s patients and their families.