The hope for finding a cure for Alzheimer’s has faced another setback with the failure of the drug Gammagard. Baxter International, Inc., maker of the drug, announced it is pulling the antibody treatment from late-stage trials after it failed to improve “cognitive decline and functional ability in patients.”
Over a period of 18 months, the drug fared no better than a placebo. It did, however, show some improvement for patients in the moderate stages of the disease and for those who carried the gene ApoE4 which raises one’s risk of having Alzheimer’s. Baxter International will continue to monitor the results in these groups but further trials would be needed.
There are several medications that treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Some help lessen the symptoms associated with memory loss, others deal with the agitation patients experience in the later stages of the disease, but there are no licensed drugs that slow the progression of the disease or cure it.
Gammagard is given to patients intravenously. It is made from natural antibodies from young, healthy blood donors. Its generic name is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), and helps patients with weakened immune systems to fight infections.
During the trials, the drug was generally well tolerated. There were 17 serious adverse reactions though that were determined to be related to treatment. Ludwig Hantson, president of Baxter International’s bioscience business, said that the details of this study will be presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston in July. Meanwhile, the company is “re-evaluating” its approach.
Alzheimer’s affects an estimated 5 million Americans and is the most common form of dementia. It is named after a German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer who identified the disease in 1901. It can strike anyone at any time, though it is mostly associated with the elderly. Doctors and scientists have made strides to find common denominators ranging from genes, diet, and head injuries, but there is still no cure.
The disease knows no barriers of race, wealth, or education. Some people who carry the gene never get the disease and sometimes it seems to run in families. At first, the symptoms are mild and may only recognized by a close family member. This early stage of the disease may not get any worse for several years. As it progresses, basic tasks become challenging and the patient develops a restlessness at night known as sundowners syndrome. In the final stages, the person is often bedfast.
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Guardian Correspondent
Source: Google News