An anti-inflammatory drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis may stop the progression of Alzheimer's, according to a randomized controlled study from the United Kingdom's University of Southampton.
Researchers tested the drug Etanercept, normally used to treat autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and plaque psoriasis, on patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's. Patients were given either a weekly injection of Etanercept or a placebo. At the end of six months, they were tested for memory function, behavior, and how they functioned in daily activities.
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The mental and physical function of patients who took Etanercept did not worsen during the six-month follow up while the abilities of those on placebo declined.
"Our results are better than we expected," said study leader professor Clive Holmes. "We have shown that using Etanercept in patients who have Alzheimer’s disease would be safe and has positive outcomes after six months."
Etanercept works by reducing levels of a protein in the blood called TNFa which is released by blood cells as part of the body's inflammatory response. Previous studies have shown that levels of TNFa are high in people with Alzheimer's.
"A large number of anti-inflammatory approaches have been tried in patients with established Alzheimer's, but with little evidence of efficacy," Holmes said. "There are very few studies that have come out with everything moving in the right direction.
"We have shown that a targeted approach against TNFa offers protection against the development of the disease," he said. "Our study was small and lasted for six months so it needs to be developed further, however our projections suggest that the benefits would continue."
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