Breakthrough in Treatment of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is often referred to as a “cruel” disease, robbing the sufferer of many cherished memories and causing deep sadness to the loved ones they may not remember anymore.

But a new drug primarily used with Parkinson’s may be able to help ease symptoms.

A recent study found that the drug pimavanserin can help people who suffer not only with Alzheimer’s disease but other strains of dementia, resulting in the study finishing early due to how obvious the benefits were.

In a conference in San Diego, California researchers shared their findings and are hoping that pimavanserin will be the latest drug for nearly twenty years that categorically targets dementia-related psychosis. It also seems to help with other symptoms including hallucinations that can cause the caregivers, patients and loved ones emotional stress, due to them often resulting in the patients suffering from anxiety and/or aggression which can often lead to verbal and physical abuse.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation acknowledged the discovery with Chief Science Officer Dr. Howard Fillit suggesting it would be a “very important advance.”

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Chief Science Officer Maria Carrillo commented “there is a huge unmet need for better treatment” which is why the focus is primarily on preventing future cases of dementia as well as aiming to find a cure.

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Pimavanserin is sold as Nuplazid by Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc and is provided as a pill to be taken each day. It is believed to work by stopping the chemical in the brain that appears to activate hallucinations and was originally approved in 2016 for Parkinson’s-related psychosis.

It is believed around 8 million Americans suffer from dementia with studies showing psychosis has developed in 30% of patients.

Dr. Jeffrey Cummings of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas commented, “it’s terrifying. You believe that people might be trying to hurt you. You believe that people are stealing from you. You believe that your spouse is unfaithful to you. Those are the three most common false beliefs.”

Acadia carried out the study of around 400 sufferers of dementia and psychosis. Each patient received a small dose of pimavanserin for three months with those who appeared to respond separated into two different groups. Half of these were then given “fake” tablets for the next six months although they were taken off the trial if their symptoms got worse or they had a relapse. The remaining 50 percent continued to take to pill. Importantly, none of the patients were aware of which drug they were taking.

However, the study ceased when it was obvious that those on the fake tablets were over twice as likely as those who took the real tablet – a staggering 28% compared to just under 13%.
Another positive aspect of the study showed that there were not very many serious side effects, with only 5% of those taking the drug complaining of problems and 4% on those on fake tablets.
Although urinary tract infections and headaches were seen in both groups the study also suffered two deaths which study leaders confirmed were nothing to do with the drug.

And although the study was small, the positive outcome was huge, yet Carrillo is not sure whether the federal Food and Drug Administration will order more studies before approving the different use of the drug.

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At the moment anti-psychotic medication can be a negative experience for users and therefore are not approved for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia with Fillit admitting “they’re often used off label because we have very few other options.”

However as with all medication, there have to be warnings that the drugs could increase the risk of fatalities, specifically in elderly sufferers.

The other issue that patients and their families will have to deal with is the cost with each course of medication costing around $3,000 each month, however the actual cost to the patient will depend on their insurance coverage.

Alongside the medication there are other ways in which you can help people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease such as making sure you keep in touch with them. Many family members stop visiting as they find it too distressing however a card, a telephone call or even a letter can still show that you care about your family member even if you cannot face the visit.

You should also educate yourself about the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia so as your loved one continues to suffer you can hopefully help them and yourself to deal with it.

If the patient you know is not a family member but a good friend or neighbor, offering to sit with them while their family takes a break will always be welcome. It can be tough living with a sufferer so a reprieve will always be welcome.