Researchers and doctors continue to sound warnings about the rise in the number of cases of diabetes, which is closely linked to the increasing proportion of overweight individuals. After a period of decline, the rate of new HIV infections is increasing, reminding us of the gravity of that threat to world health. And the debate about whether cell phones cause cancer has been revived by unsettling new studies.
When we remember that Big Pharma’s pipelines are still generally weak, these troubling facts seem more disturbing. The picture is not entirely black, though. Researchers are hopeful about treatments for at least one medical condition.
The pipeline for Alzheimer’s treatments is robust, according to Sam Gandy, chair of the Alzheimer’s Association’s medical and scientific advisory council. Several drug candidates have shown promising results in Phase I–III clinical trials.
For example, a 12-week trial suggested that PBT2, a metal, protein-attenuating compound, reduced a toxic form of beta-amyloid in the brain. In another trial, AL-108, an eight-amino-acid peptide delivered as a nasal spray, led to improvements in patients with mild cognitive impairment.
Several established drugs are being reexamined as potential treatments for Alzheimer’s sufferers. For example, the antihistamine dimebolin hydrochloride preserved cognition in an 18-month investigation. And the antimalarial methylthioninium chloride interfered with the accumulation of Tau tangles in the brain in an 84-week study.
These treatments’ safety and efficacy remain to be proven, but the number and variety of drug candidates to combat Alzheimer’s disease provide grounds for optimism.