New Alzheimer’s pill that halts disease could be available in four years
Sufferers of debilitating Alzheimer’s disease had some cause for relief yesterday as scientists revealed that a new drug that literally ‘flat-lines the disease’ and ‘pulls people back the brink’ could be on the market within four years. The new drug is believed to be more than twice as effective as anything that is currently available and is giving hope to sufferers who include the novelist Terry Pratchett.
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by plaques and tangles of proteins that form in the brain that prevent the electrical and chemical signals from firing effectively. The drug known as LMTX dissolves the ‘tangles’ of protein that are a symptom of the dementia. British scientists have already tested the pill which has to been taken twice a day and they say results have been ‘unprecedented’. The inventor, Professor Claude Wischik, of Aberdeen University, said: ‘It flatlines the disease. If you get in early, you can pull people back from the brink.’ It is even thought that the drug could be prescribed as a preventive measure to anyone over 60, whether or not they show signs of dementia.
Previous Alzheimer’s drugs have worked on the brain’s chemistry or have targeted the build-up of a brain-clogging protein called beta-amyloid. The difference with LMTX is that it works to dissolve the ‘tangles’ of protein that spread through the brain like an infection. There has been an earlier version of LMTX, called Rember, has already been tested on patients and this too has had promising results. It has been given to men and women with mild to moderate dementia, and the drug has been shown to slow down the progression of the disease by 90 per cent for two years.
One woman who suffered from mild Alzheimer’s and was on the drug was able to return to work. Six years later she is still taking the drug and still working. There was a problem however with Rember in that people had several digestive side-effects and there were problems taking it with food, leading to its reformulation as LMTX. To prove that LMTX is just as effective but without as many complications, TauRx Therapeutics, the drug firm Professor Wischik co-founded, is starting two ‘final-hurdle’ trials that will involve almost 1,500 men and women with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s. This final testing stage will involve some 150 Britons, who will take the pill or a dummy drug for up to 18 months. If LMTX is deemed safe and effective by the regulatory authorities, it could be on sale in just four years.
Professor Wischik says: “Even if people are progressing very slowly, they can stay at home with their loved ones for longer, rather than having to go into institutional care,” he added: “But, hopefully, if you bring it in early enough, you can stop this or at least put a big dent in it.” Dr Richard Perry, an Alzheimer’s expert at London’s Charing Cross Hospital and at the Re:Cognition Health memory clinic, said that the protein tangles are a ‘very legitimate target’.He added that LMTX is one to watch but its value won’t be known until the large-scale trials are completed. Rebecca Wood, of the Alzheimer’s Research UK charity, said: “With current Alzheimer’s drugs acting to relieve symptoms, there is a desperate need for new treatments which can slow or stop the disease. Support for research must be maintained if we are to keep building on our knowledge and developing potential new ways to beats this devastating disease.”