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Friday, 02 December 2016

Future of Alzheimer's treatment may lie in prevention drugs, expert suggests

Written by The Press Association

Dementia-preventing drugs similar to statins may be the long-term solution to Alzheimer's, a leading expert has suggested.

Just as statins reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, they would prevent the build up of toxic deposits of protein fragments in the brain.

And like statins, they would be taken by patients who seem outwardly healthy.

Neuroscientist Professor John Hardy said: "I take statins every morning. One would not take statins for a stroke.

"You take statins to reduce your cholesterol, to make sure a stroke is less likely, but you don't take it acutely during a stroke.

"It is possible that this type of analogy holds true in Alzheimer's disease."

Prof Hardy was speaking after the failure of a new immunotherapy Alzheimer's drug, solanezumab, in a large scale clinical trial.

The antibody treatment was supposed to target beta-amyloid, sticky clumps of protein fragments that accumulate in the brain and are a hallmark of Alzheimer's.

But despite promising pre-clinical results solanezumab failed to achieve significant slowing of memory loss and mental decline.

It was one of several new potentially disease-modifying drugs now being tested that act on beta-amyloid.

Currently while some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's can be treated, there is nothing that can halt or slow its progression.

Experts recognise that a major problem is identifying people at risk and tackling the disease early enough.

Alzheimer's disease is believed to progress for 10 to 20 years before any symptoms appear.

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "The failure of solanezumab last week was really disappointing and a set back to this whole area, as it now means patients will have to wait probably at least another two or three years before the next drug gets to the end of its Phase III trials."

Research conducted by the charity had shown that the introduction of a successful disease-modifying Alzheimer's drug would by 2050 result in a third fewer people living with dementia, he added.

An estimated 850,000 people in the UK have some form of dementia, and of those 500,000 suffer from Alzheimer's.

Each year the disease costs the UK economy an estimated £24 billion in medical bills and lost productivity.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at Alzheimer's Society, said: "Changes in the brain in people with Alzheimer's disease begin a decade or more before dementia symptoms appear. We need to be targeting treatments at this very early stage because, after all, preventing symptoms in the first place would be better than a cure."

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