New Medication Slows Memory Decline
A new medication for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, based on basic laboratory research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Johannes-Guttenberg University Medical School in Germany, has been approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The drug Reminyl, known chemically as galantamine, is extracted from the bulbs of daffodils. Five clinical trials involving 2,600 Alzheimer's disease patients found that the drug was effective at slowing memory decline, helping patients to organize their thinking, reducing anxiety and delaying the emergence of behavioral problems, such as wandering. The studies demonstrated that patients taking Reminyl showed significant improvement in their cognitive performance compared to those receiving a placebo.
Reminyl works by sensitizing nicotinic receptors in the brain to acetylcholine, a vital neurotransmitter responsible for memory and cognitive functioning. Reminyl also blocks the breakdown of acetylcholine. With more acetylcholine and increased nicotinic receptor function in the brain, Alzheimer's disease patients maintain their cognitive abilities for a longer period of time.
The effects of Reminyl on nicotinic receptors were established by Edson X. Albuquerque, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in collaboration with Alfred Maelicke, P.h.D., professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology at the Johannes-Guttenberg University Medical School.
"This drug will undoubtedly help to increase the quality of life for Alzheimer's patients and their families, and we are pleased to have been part of research that led to its development," says Dr. Albuquerque. "Reminyl can increase the nicotinic receptor function in a sustained and controlled fashion."
An estimated four million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, which causes a progressive loss of cognitive function in such tasks as thinking, remembering and reasoning. Alzheimer's disease can become so severe that it interferes with daily functioning and can eventually result in death. The disorder is the third most expensive illness in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. The number of Alzheimer's cases is expected to grow to 14 million by 2050.
Reminyl, manufactured by New Jersey-based Janssen Pharmaceutica, will be available by prescription in the U.S. in May. Reminyl has already been approved for use in 21 other countries.
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