FYI Daily

Test Alzheimer's Drugs Earlier for Better Success?

Last updated: Dec 01, 2011

Alzheimer's a tightening grip

Why have we seen so many disappointing results with Alzheimer's drugs under testing in recent years? Maybe it's because they're being tested on the wrong subjects, people whose disease is too advanced, a team of scientists believes.

Clinical trials on Alzheimer's drugs should be done well before the worst of memory loss and other debilitating symptoms occurs -- and this is now possible, since testing can indicate people who have no symptoms of disease but do have the abnormal proteins believed to be a hallmark of the disease, according to an article in Science Translational Medicine.

Lead author Reisa Sperling, an Alzheimer's specialist at Boston Brigham and Women's Hospital's, likens giving Alzheimer's drugs to those with the earliest, pre-symptomatic signs of the disease to giving cholesterol drugs to patients with certain warning signs, before they have a heart attack. "If you catch it preclinically, you may be able to delay or stop symptoms from progressing," Maria Carrillo, senior director of medical and scientific relations of the Alzheimer's Association, told the Boston Globe.

Sperling is planning a clinical trial of the first amyloid-clearing medication in those who have signs of amyloid protein in the brain but no other manifestations of Alzheimer's. It will involve about 1,000 adults over age 70.

It's an idea that's certainly in tune with an urgent need, given the rapidly aging population, for fresh approaches to attacking an old, and growing, problem.