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Experimental Drug Might Help Fight Alzheimer's After All
Date:7/20/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News)-- An experimental drug for treating Alzheimer's disease that previously showed troubling side effects may actually be safe in the long run, researchers report.

The keys to the safety of the drug, bapineuzumab, may be lowering the dose and not giving it to patients with ApoE4, a gene mutation linked to Alzheimer's, according to two studies scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Paris.

"The data from the open-label trial are encouraging. Patients were able to tolerate bapineuzumab for two to four additional years without the emergence of any new safety concerns," said Dr. Stephen Salloway, author of one of the studies. "This is important because we are conceptualizing this drug as a long-term treatment for Alzheimer's disease."

Encouraging does not translate into certainty, however, another expert pointed out.

"I think it is too early to tell from the data from this small Phase 2 safety trial," said Ian Murray, an assistant professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in College Station. "We will have to wait for larger trials to comment on this as a potential therapy."

The studies were funded by Pfizer Inc. and Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy.

Although bapineuzumab has shown promise in certain Alzheimer's patients, other research found that patients taking a higher dose of the drug had an increased risk of brain inflammation from water retention. This resulted in headache, memory loss, hallucinations, reduced coordination or other symptoms. But no problems were seen with lower doses.

Bapineuzumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody, which binds to and might be able to eliminate beta amyloid peptide in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. Most experts believe that the b
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