Some medicines already on drugstore shelves may turn out to
slow - or even prevent - the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers in St. Louis and elsewhere are studying
nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and estrogen
replacement therapy to see the effect they might have on
In one of the most promising studies so far, Dr. Louis Kirby of
the Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Ariz., has found
that one medication, indomethacin (Indocin), was able to improve
mental capabilities in moderately impaired Alzheimer's disease
patients after they took it for only six months.
"This has caused a stir in the industry. Everyone is convinced
there is something to it," Kirby said.
In his study, Kirby gave the drug to elderly patients with
Alzheimer's disease for six months. Also enrolled in the study were
people of similar age and background with no history of Alzheimer's
disease. Members of both groups received Indocin or a placebo (a
pill with no active ingredient).
Kirby says he found that Indocin appeared to protect mild- to
moderately-impaired Alzheimer's disease patients from mental
During the study, those who received the placebo showed an 8.4
percent decline on a battery of cognitive measurements. But those
receiving the drug showed an improvement of 1.3 percent on the same
mental skills tests.
"It a small enough study that it is only suggestive. But it is
the only thing that has shown promise at slowing the progression of
Alzheimer's disease," Kirby said.
Currently, the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration for treating Alzheimer's disease is Cognex. Kirby
says Cognex helps with performance but "it doesn't have an effect
on the outcome on the course of the disease."
NSAIDs, a class of drugs that includes aspirin, are now being
investigated at several medical centers across the country in
"It is too early to offer aspirin for Alzheimer's disease,"
said Kirby. He noted that the dose of aspirin would probably have
to be pretty high, increasing the chance of side effects.
Millions of arthritis patients now take two and three NSAIDs a
day to control their pain. Kirby says it's possible that some of
these patients are incidentally preventing the memory loss that
occurs with Alzheimer's.
"Studies have shown that the chances of getting severe memory
problems with rheumatoid arthritis are very low," Kirby said. …