Alzheimer's drugs hailed15th May 2007
Research in the UK has shown Alzheimer's drugs currently unavailable to some NHS patients may have a significant impact on brain processes.
A study published in the journal Neurology showed a 70% fall of a protein associated with Alzheimer's and dementia in those who had taken the drugs. Post-mortem examinations were perfomed on 12 patients who participated in UK trials of the drugs donepezil, rivastigmine, tacrine and galantamine.
Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, led a team who studied deposits of protein in plaques associated with the disease. They found levels were 70% lower in the brains of people who took the drugs in the UK trials. Profesor Ballard said: "the sheer magnitude of the reduction was a real surprise."
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2001 recommended the drugs should be used as standard. However, in November 2006 NICE issued guidance saying people with mild Alzheimer's were exempt. Campaigners are contesting the decision by the NHS to reject use of the drugs in mild cases.
The Alzheimer's Society will take part in a judicial review at the High Court in June. Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, stated that people affected by Alzheimer's were already aware of the drugs' benefits. He said: "This study provides the first hard evidence of the physical benefits of the same treatments."
Dr Declan McCloughlin, senior lecturer in the Medical Research Council Centre for Neurodegeneration, commented: "This is a very interesting but preliminary finding which could have happened by chance because the sample groups are small."
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