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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Daffodil dementia drug hailed
female patient
The drug could help people with other types of dementia, as well as Alzheimer's
A drug derived from daffodils has been found effective in halting the progress of different types of dementia.

The drug, Reminyl (galantamine) is already recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

But researchers from Swindon have shown that it can also be beneficial in treating vascular dementia, which is caused by damage to the blood vessels leading to the brain.

It affects between six and 12 people per 1,000 over 70 across the world.


This study has the potential to make a real impact on the way dementia is treated throughout the world.

Dr Roger Bullock,
Kingshill Research Centre
Between 11% and 30% have a combination of the two, called "mixed dementia".

It is the second biggest cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, and is often triggered by one or more small strokes.

Findings presented to the World Congress of Neurology in London on Tuesday showed Reminyl improved memory, orientation and language skills.

Patients taking the drug were able to perform activities such as bathing, dressing and doing housework.

Benefits

Mervyn Richardson and his wife Beryl from Poole in Dorset can testify to the benefits of Reminyl.

Mervyn, 66, first persuaded his wife Beryl, 71, to visit her GP late on in 1998 when she showed signs of mental deterioration.

By January this year Mrs Richardson, who has a mixture of Alzheimer's and vascular dementia, had seriously deteriorated.

Her husband, who was concerned she might have to go into residential care, said: "She was extremely ill. Mentally she was deteriorating quite fast, and her physical health was also bad."

Research

After many battles with their health authority by Mr Richardson, who has worked as a chemist and biologist on behalf of organisations, including the World Health Organization, his wife began taking the drug in March 2000.

Mr Richardson said she is much more alert than she was before she began taking Reminyl.

Shortly after she began the treatment, Mrs Richardson - who at her worst had only been able to take part in conversations by grunting - said: "My head no longer feels like its filled with cotton wool."

Just under 600 patients with vascular or mixed dementia took part in the six-month study.

Reminyl was given to 396 patients, and a placebo was given to the remaining 196.

The 459 people (295 of whom had been on the drug, and 164 who had not) took part in a further six-month study where they all took Reminyl.

The study found after 12 months, those patients who had been taking the drug throughout the study had better cognitive abilities than when they began the treatment.

Those who took the placebo for the first six months saw their mental awareness decline, though after being on the drug for six months, they also improved.

The drug works by preventing the breakdown a brain chemical crucial to memory and learning.

It also stimulates proteins in the brain to produce more of the key chemical.

Potential

Dr Roger Bullock, of Swindon's Kingshill Research Centre, who led one of 10 patient trials across Europe and Canada, said: "This study has the potential to make a real impact on the way dementia is treated throughout the world.

"If the findings of this study are replicated through further research, physicians will no longer need to hesitate before treating dementia in individuals in whom vascular damage has occurred."

It follows research published last week, which showed people with high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels have a much higher risk of getting Alzheimer's disease as they get older.

Dr Richard Harvey, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society told BBC News Online the findings would help doctors treating patients where it was difficult to distinguish the exact cause of their dementia.

He said: "This drug is a short-term treatment. It slows down the progress of the condition and people see quite significant benefits."

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See also:

18 Jun 01 | Health
Genetic clue to Alzheimer's risk
06 Jun 01 | Health
Vaccine hope for Alzheimer's
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