Alzheimer's Study Launched

by Aine Kerr-The Irish Times-12th September 2006

An innovative new pilot study at Trinity College Dublin will determine if a drug already widely available in Ireland could provide a much sought-after treatment for Alzheimer's Disease.

The new partnership between the renowned Roskamp Institute in Florida and TCD's Institute of Neuroscience will involve 150 mild to moderate Alzheimer's patients in an effort to establish if the drug Nilvadipine(Nivadil) is useful in the treatment of the disease.

This follows research by the Roskamp Institute which found that some medications have the potential to increase the removal of the amyloid protein from the brain into the blood, which could be beneficial in developing a potential treatment for Alzheimer's. The TCD pilot project aims to establish if Nivadil,which is currently used in Ireland to treat high blood pressure and is available on prescription, alters the level of amyloid in the blood.

Over the coming months,some 150 patients referred by their Physicians and GP's will have the amyloid levels in their blood assessed before and after a six-week trial on Nivadil,according to the director of Roskamp Institute,Dr. Michael Mullan.If there is an increase of amyloid in the blood following continued use of Nivadil,this may suggest that there has been some clearing of it in the brain.

Recruitment of patients will be facilitated through a new umbrella group called The Dublin Ageing Research Network,comprising doctors in geriatrics and old-age psychiatry from the major Dublin hospitals.

"The forthcoming Nilvadipine clinical study is an important step in our research for a treatment for Alzheimer's. However,it is just one more step along a very long road.We do not know yet whether this drug will help to treat Alzheimer's Disease and memory loss and it is important to make that clear at the outset" said Dr. Mullan

Prof.Brian Lawlor,Professor of old-age psychiatry at St.James's Hospital and TCD,estimated that recruitment of patients should conclude in 18 months,allowing an additional six months to produce the final results and assessment of the pilot study.

He contended that 20 per cent of people aged 80 and over and 5 per cent of people aged 65 and over suffer from Alzheimer's Disease nationally and internationally."In Ireland,around 35,000 people-plus have Alzheimer's.That's a fairly significant number and in a population that is ageing,and ageing quite rapidly,we are likely to see more cases of Alzheimer's over the next few decades.It's going to be a major healthcare problem"he said.