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Drug Looks Promising in Alzheimer's Fight

May 21, 2008

Sunnybrook has co-led a study that suggests the drug Flurizan, at a higher dose, has the potential to safely slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in its early stages.

Flurizan is an investigational drug being studied in patients with mild-to-moderate stages of the disease. “This is one of the first drugs to show the potential to not just treat the symptoms of AD, but also to slow down the disease itself if it is in the mild stage,” says Dr. Sandra Black, the study co-investigator and Neuroscience Research Director at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Dr. Black was the mastermind behind the idea to extend the 12-month trial to 24 months at the participating Canadian sites.

This change in study methodology in itself is leading edge in dementia trials as practice, as the two-year study was critically important for detecting ongoing benefits, as previous studies in AD usually lasted six-months or perhaps a year maximum.

It’s a new approach to assessing drug efficacy. “We found it is best to give the drug in the earlier stages of the disease. The effects only began to show around the nine-month point as you would expect if it took a while to impact on the disease process. The trend continued out to two years with an increasing difference over time.”

Results are preliminary, but they give some hope for the development of a new treatment for AD. The mild patients who were treated consistently over the course of the study declined very little over a two- year period, which is significant for patients and their families. It means they were still able to do things for themselves such as handling basic finances, making decisions, and looking after self-care needs.

“If proven in the phase 3 study, the drug would be the first to bring real hope to modifying disease course. If safe and tolerable, and so far that looks promising, it could be taken safely for many years,” says Dr. Black. With further research, it may prove to be useful as a regular preventative medication that high-risk patients would take to delay the onset of AD, similar to medications that help to prevent heart disease or stroke.”

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