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Sunday, 6 October, 2002, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
New Alzheimer's drug hope
Alzheimer's patient
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease

A drug has been released for treating patients with Alzheimer's disease which could help delay the more severe symptoms of the condition.

Ebixa has been available in Europe for other medical conditions for some time, but has now been proved successful in stabilising memory loss and other symptoms associated with Alzheimer's.

Trials found patients taking the drug were two-to-three times more likely to see their condition stabilise than those taking placebos.

The effects lasted at least a year and there were no significant side effects.


There may be quite a lot of behavioural changes as well as some improvements in memory

Dr David Wilkinson, Alzheimer's expert
Several drugs are already available for treating Alzheimer's, but there is no cure, and as the disease gets worse, the drugs lose their effectiveness.

Ebixa has been available in Europe for treating other conditions, but now it has tested positively for people with moderate or severe Alzheimer's.

The drug, manufactured by the Danish pharmaceutical firm, Lundbeck, has become the first treatment for people at an advanced stage of the disease.

Alzheimer's expert Dr David Wilkinson said it was a major advance and could help patients regain some of the functions most people take for granted.

"They may be able to feed themselves better or they may recognise when they need to go to the lavatory so there may be quite a lot of behavioural changes as well as some improvements in memory," he said.

Personality improvements

It is estimated one in 20 people over the age of 65 in Britain have Alzheimer's disease - almost 400,000 people.

It is a devastating condition which affects brain function.

The memory is gradually erased, not just of times, dates, people and past history, but also how to do basic things such as dressing, or cooking. It usually shortens a patients life.

A healthy brain releases "chemical messengers" to promote learning and memory.

But when Alzheimer's sets in, these messengers are released almost continuously, creating a kind of background noise which disrupts learning and memory.

Ebixa works by blocking the effects of this background noise, allowing the brain to function more normally.

One benefit of Ebixa is that it could delay patients' need for long-term care.

Another advantage is that Exiba can reduce some of the personality changes - apathy, irritability and restlessness - which are associated with Alzheimer's.

This would make life much easier for those looking after the patient.

See also:

20 Jul 02 | Health
17 Jun 02 | Health
30 Sep 02 | Americas
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