Scientists are predicting a breakthrough dementia treatment — given by injection monthly — may be available within five years to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, according to a report in The Telegraph
Researchers say an experimental drug has shown promise in tests of patients with mild dementia, and might be even more effective if given before individuals at risk have any symptoms of the brain-wasting disease.
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Eric Karran, M.D., director of research at Alzheimer’s Research U.K., told the British newspaper that scientists are "full of hope" that a breakthrough in drug therapy to prevent dementia could come by 2018.
Researchers are now planning to conduct follow-up studies to see if the drug solanezumab can successfully ward of dementia in people who are at risk of Alzheimer's if given monthly injections long before any signs of disease emerge — in the same way that millions now take statins to ward off heart disease.
Speaking in advance of a G8 summit next week on dementia, Dr. Karran said drug trials have suggested solanezumab may delay the onset of disease, halting problems with brain function and behavior in those with mild dementia.
He noted the studies that tested the drug on patients with mild dementia found it had an effect both on the daily behavior and the functioning of their brain and memory.
"I am full of hope that we are going to have a breakthrough in five years," Dr. Karran said, citing other drugs that are now taken to prevent chronic diseases.
"That's exactly the path that blood pressure-lowering agents have taken — people taking them before they have a stroke," he told The Telegraph
. "It's the path that's been taken with statins which first showed efficacy against the disease and then you go earlier. That has to be the pathway we take."
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Currently, the only drugs used for dementia can ease symptoms, but do not delay the onset of disease. Studies have shown changes in the brains of patients with diseases such as Alzheimer's can occur a decade before they have symptoms, which might allow doctors to one day identify people who would benefit from taking drugs like solanezumab as a preventive strategy.