Still, it would probably be very expensive.
The first two on the list are lab-made, single antibodies against amyloid. Gammagard is intravenous immune globulin, or IVIG — multiple, natural antibodies culled from blood. Half a dozen companies already sell IVIG to treat immune system and blood disorders. It takes 130 plasma donations to make enough to treat one patient for a year.
Treating Alzheimer’s with IVIG would cost $2,000 to $5,000 every two weeks, depending on the patient’s weight, said Dr. Norman Relkin, head of a memory disorders program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He consults for some drugmakers and has patents for tests that measure amyloid.
Relkin is also leading a late-stage, 400-patient study of Gammagard that will wrap up late this year. A much smaller, earlier study he led showed less brain shrinkage among people receiving the drug than among those getting dummy infusions.
“It was so startling that I sent it to two laboratories for independent verification,” Relkin said.
Next week, at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Canada, Relkin will give a three-year progress report on 16 patients out of the original 24 enrolled in that earlier study.
Jason Marder is among them. The New York City man, who turned 70 on Tuesday, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than eight years ago.
“It was devastating,” said his wife, Karin Marder. “I thought, ‘Our life is over together as a couple.’ But in fact it really has not been, and I have to attribute this really to the clinical trial.”
In the roughly five years that her husband has taken Gammagard, there has been decline in his health, but it is minimal and the kind of slowing down you might expect from ordinary aging, she said. “He travels the subways, he does things that you and I do. And our quality of life together is what’s most important,” she said.
Jason Marder said he takes a creative writing class, runs errands for his wife and bikes around the city. As for his disease, “I fight it as much as I can,” he said. “I feel I can handle it.”
It’s impossible to say how Marder would have fared without the treatment. Some patients decline rapidly, while others not for years. Hard evidence comes from large studies like the one that will conclude later this year, in which a group of patients getting the treatment is compared with a similar group given dummy infusions.
Studies on the two other drugs already have ended and results are being analyzed. The main outcome is likely to be announced by the companies as soon as it is known, and detailed results are to be presented at scientific conferences in October.
Bapineuzumab is one of the largest bets ever placed in the field of Alzheimer’s disease. More than 4,000 patients are participating in four studies around the world — two in people with a gene that raises the risk of Alzheimer’s and two in people who don’t carry that gene.
The studies, which started enrolling patients in 2007, involve brain scans every few months. “That’s enormously expensive and time-consuming,” said Dr. Eric Yuen, head of clinical development for Janssen. These experiments are just now yielding results.
Concern arose when an earlier study found possible bleeding or brain abnormalities in up to 10 percent of patients on the drug. However, most had no symptoms and were able to resume treatment after a brief break, Yuen said. In fact, some researchers think these changes might be a sign the drug is working to clear the amyloid plaque.View Entire Story
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