The Daffodil Drug to Beat Alzheimer's; Good Health

Article excerpt

Byline: ROGER DOBSON

A DRUG for Alzheimer's sufferers made from natural compounds found in the daffodil will be launched in Britain within the next few weeks.

The drug - which has been in development for a number of years - has successfully completed clinical trials and is expected to get the go-ahead for marketing shortly.

The drug is not a cure for the disease, but it is designed to significantly slow down the advance of the condition.

It will be targeted at patients with mild and moderate forms of Alzheimer's, which is suffered by around 450,000 people in the UK and which is being predicted to affect 22 million people worldwide by 2025 because of our increasing life spans.

Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease that usually begins gradually, causing the sufferer to forget recent events or familiar tasks.

Although the disease can occur in men and women in their 30s, most people diagnosed with Alzheimer's are over 65.

The speed of the advance of the disease varies between individuals, but it eventually causes confusion, personality and behavioural changes and impaired judgment.

Communication becomes difficult as the sufferer struggles to find words, finish thoughts or follow directions.

Areas of the brain that influence short-term memory tend to be affected first, but the disease eventually works its way into sections of the brain that control other intellectual and physical functions.

The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease involve more than simple lapses in memory; people with the condition experience difficulties communicating, learning, thinking and reasoning that can have an impact on their work, social and family life.

It is a disease that destroys brain cells and causes the formation of abnormal structures in the brain called plaques and tangles; as they accumulate in affected individuals, nerve cell connections are reduced, causing the symptoms seen.

Despite years of research throughout the world, it is still not clear what causes Alzheimer's, although age and family history have been identified as two of a range of potential risk factors.

There is no treatment currently available to cure or stop the progression of the disease, although some, such as tacrine, donepezil and rivastigmine, may temporarily relieve some symptoms. The new drug, Reminyl, is based on a compound called galantamine, which is derived from the bulb of the daffodil flower.

It is thought that the drug works in two different ways to delay some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Unlike other agents, galanta-mine appears to act on the brain's nicotine receptors - the same receptors that are stimulated by smoking tobacco.

Some research suggests that stimulation of these nicotine receptors may be associated with a decrease in the amyloid plaques that are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's. …