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Alzheimer's Society comments on research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference

Published 22 July 2015

Alzheimer's Society comments on research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference today (Wednesday 22 July).

  • Potential new symptomatic therapy for Alzheimer's disease
  • Use of medication may reduce agitation of people with Alzheimer's
  • Amyloid brain scans may change Alzheimer's diagnosis and management

Potential new symptomatic therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Results from a clinical trial reported at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2015 today (Wednesday 22 July) have shown positive evidence in boosting the efficacy of donepezil, also known as Aricept, which is used in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease to relieve some symptoms of the condition.

The 48-week placebo-controlled clinical trial involved 684 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. These participants were randomized to receive either 35 mg of the drug, called RVT-101, 15 mg of RVT-101 or a placebo, in addition to donepezil treatment. Multiple tests were used to determine whether there were improvements in cognition, including memory, attention, orientation and languages, as well as evaluation of everyday activities, like eating and bathing.

Results showed that participants who took 35 mg of RVT-101 once a day in combination with donepezil had statistically significant improvements in cognition and daily living activities compared to those of donepezil alone. Those on 15 mg of RVT-101 did not show statistically significantly differences from the placebo group.

Researchers reported that RVT-101 was well tolerated by participants.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer's Society said:

'This finding adds weight to the growing school of thought that people with Alzheimer's disease may benefit from receiving a combination of different therapies. This finding is also encouraging as in the future it could benefit people who are in the mild or even moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease. The drug will need to go through further large trials in order for us to fully understand how it works and its long term effects.

'It has been over a decade since any new treatments for Alzheimer's have been brought to patients. The limited existing treatments do not treat the underlying disease but they can help with symptoms. Any drugs that can  further help some of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by Alzheimer's to live well with the disease will be a very welcome discovery.'

Use of medication may reduce agitation of people with Alzheimer's

A research study has shown that the use of the medication AVP-923 could be useful in the treatment of agitation for people who have Alzheimer's disease.  It was presented today (Wednesday 22 July) at Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

The medication, called AVP-923, is a combination of dextromethorphan and quinidine. The ten week trial found that within a week AVP-923 significantly reduced agitation and the effect was sustained for the 10 weeks of the trial. Some of the side effects of the mediation included falls, diarrhoea and urinary tract infections.

Dr Clare Walton, Alzheimer's Society's Research Manager, said:

'People with dementia may start to behave differently as their condition progresses. Feelings of agitation are common and may lead to challenging behaviours which are distressing for the person with the condition and their carers. It could be that they are confused or having difficulty communicating.

'While it is encouraging to see a drug that could reduce agitation and so help people to live better with dementia, this treatment did have some side effects, including an increase in falls. This means that it may not be appropriate for all people with the condition and we need to see further studies to fully understand the risks and benefits.

'Drugs that alter behaviour need to be carefully monitored and tested to ensure that this treatment is the best course of action for the person affected. Alzheimer's Society would encourage a person-centred approach to dementia care as this has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce agitation.'

Amyloid brain scans may change Alzheimer's diagnosis and management

The use of Amyloid PET scans may change the way that doctors manage and diagnose their patients with dementia, according to research presented today (Wednesday 22 July) at Alzheimer's Association International Conference. The scan can show whether someone with memory problems has deposits of amyloid in their brain, the classic hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

The study focused on doctors in France, Italy and the US who were treating 618 patients who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, where Alzheimer's was being considered as a possible cause. All patients were given a diagnosis and management plan by their doctors before undergoing an amyloid PET scan. For half the patients, their doctors received their scan results immediately and for the other half the doctors did not receive this information for a year.

Preliminary results demonstrate that doctors who received their patient's scan results immediately were significantly more likely to alter the patient's diagnosis and management plan, including the prescription of Alzheimer's medication, than the doctors who were not given access to the scan results for a year.

Dr Clare Walton, Alzheimer's Society's Research Manager, said:

'Brain scans can sometimes be used to help with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, but neither standard MRI nor these new amyloid PET scans can tell for sure whether a person's memory problems are caused by the condition. These amyloid scans may give us more information about the cause of a person's symptoms, but they will still need to be used as part of a battery of diagnostic tests.

'We need to be sure that any diagnostic tests for Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia will benefit the person affected. These results do indicate that extra information provided by the scan can influence the way someone with memory problems is treated by their doctor, but there currently isn't enough evidence to show that the scan will improve their medical experience or quality of life.

'It is essential that people with dementia are given the appropriate support, information and treatments for their condition. Any diagnostic process that will bring better management of dementia is to be welcomed. However, we need to wait for the results of further tests of this scan to see whether it can bring that benefit.'

- Ends -

 

Notes to editors:

  • 225,000 will develop dementia this year, that's one every three minutes
  • Alzheimer's Society research shows that 850,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia. In less than ten years a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to two million people by 2051
  • Dementia costs the UK economy over £26 Billion per year. This is the equivalent of more than £30,000 per person with dementia.
  • Alzheimer's Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and the millions of people who care for them
  • Alzheimer's Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Alzheimer's Society supports people to live well with dementia today and funds research to find a cure for tomorrow. We rely on voluntary donations to continue our vital work. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers.org.uk
  • Alzheimer's Society provides a National Dementia Helpline, the number is 0300 222 11 22 or visit alzheimers.org.uk