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New Alzheimer's drug seems to slow disease progression, research shows
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new drug to treat Alzheimer's disease may help slow the progression of the disease in later-stage patients, according to a new study released Wednesday at the first ever World Alzheimer Congress.
The drug called memantine is the only drug tested to date for moderate to severe cases of the disease in later-stage patients. These are patients who are well enough to live at home under the supervision of a loved one, and who are perhaps a few steps away from going to a nursing home. These patients account for about one-third of all Alzheimer patients.
The six-month study conducted by Dr. Barry Reisberg, M.D. and Steve Ferris, Ph.D. at New York University School of Medicine included 250 volunteers from 30 U.S. centers. Half of the participants received the drug, the other half a placebo.
Researchers found that patients in both the placebo group and the treatment group continued to get worse. Those taking memantine, however, performed significantly better on cognitive tests and tasks of daily living such as dressing and bathing. Study results showed no difference in the level of aggression or agitation between the two treatment groups.
Researchers believe that memantine works on the area of the brain that has to do with thinking and memory.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs, Aricept, Exelon and Cognex, to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's. There are no approved treatments for later-stage patients. Further testing of memantine is needed before the drug can be approved for widespread use in the United States.
Memantine is currently available in Germany to treat dementia assumed to be due to Alzheimer's. The drug is manufactured by Merz in Germany.
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