New Alzheimer pills keep patients stable

New Alzheimer pills keep patients stable

Four Alzheimer’s patients treated with an immune system therapy have seen their disease stabilize for at least three years, raising hope that the newly developped drug will prove effective in larger trials.

Scientists say the study released on Tuesday is too small to show whether the drug will ultimately prove effective, but any sign of progress in Alzheimer’s research is welcome. Scientists expect Baxter’s results next year.

“Over the last few years there have been a lot of conspicuous failures with Alzheimer’s drugs,” said Dr. Norman Relkin of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. Relkin presented three-year results on Baxter’s study at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver.

Most Alzheimer’s patients typically decline over three to six months, so to have the disease stabilize in four patients -all treated for three years with the same dose of the same drug - is “a very unexpected and very positive finding,” he said. There are no licensed drugs that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, and currently approved medications only treat symptoms. The disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting 5.1 million Americans and 35 million people globally.

Relkin presented three-year data on 16 patients in Baxter’s Phase 2 study of Gammagard, which originally enrolled 24 participants.

Overall, all 11 study participants who got Gammagard for the full three years showed improvements in thinking abilities, behavior and daily functioning.

Of these, the four patients who received the most effective dose (0.4g/kg) for the full 36 months fared the best, showing no decline on several standard measures of cognition, memory, daily functioning and mood.

Many drugs fail despite very encouraging Phase 2 results, Relkin said. The real proof of Gammagard’s effectiveness will come early next year with the release of results of the large-scale, Phase 3 study, which he is also leading.