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Malaria Drug Doesn't Boost Survival Odds With Prion Diseases

Oral quinacrine showed no benefit for brain-wasting disorders such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob

WEDNESDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- The drug quinacrine doesn't prolong survival of patients with brain-wasting prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), British researchers say.

Currently, there is no way to prevent or reverse the progression of prion diseases. However, quinacrine -- an oral drug used to treat malaria and some forms of arthritis -- has been shown to be effective in treating prion-infected mouse cells.

This study included 107 patients, aged 12 and older, with prion disease. They underwent neurological assessments and clinical exams at the start of the study and again one, two, four and six months later. After that, the patients were examined every three months.

Some patients started taking 300 milligrams of quinacrine per day at the start of the study, one group started taking the drug later in the study, and others didn't take quinacrine.

During the study, 78 patients died, including 26 who took the drug immediately and 52 who initially took no quinacrine or delayed treatment.

After adjusting for factors such as disease severity and type of prion disease, the researchers found no significant difference in survival rates between those who took quinacrine and those who initially didn't take the drug.

The study was released online and was expected to be published in the April print issue of The Lancet Neurology.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about prion diseases.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet Neurology, news release, March 10, 2009

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