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New Alzheimer's Treatment Could Be on the Horizon
Date:7/20/2009

Potential of immune system treatment is 'exciting,' expert says,,

MONDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- A treatment already used to bolster the immune systems of people with leukemia and other serious diseases might also help ward off Alzheimer's disease, new research suggests.

Researchers looked at the association between the use of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) and the occurrence of Alzheimer's. "IVIg has been used safely for more than 20 years to treat other diseases but is thought to have an indirect effect on Alzheimer's disease by targeting beta-amyloid, or plaques, in the brain," said Dr. Howard Fillit, a clinical professor of geriatrics and medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and the study's lead author.

To assess the effectiveness of IVIg against Alzheimer's disease, researchers analyzed the medical records of 847 people ages 65 and older who'd had at least one IVIg treatment at some point in their life and 84,700 people of the same age who had never received IVIg.

They found that those who had received IVIg were 42 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. Put another way, about 2.8 percent of those treated with IVIg developed Alzheimer's disease, compared with 4.8 percent of those not treated.

The study was funded in part by Baxter Bioscience, part of the pharmaceutical company that makes IVIg, and one of the four study authors worked for the company. The findings are published in the July 21 issue of Neurology.

"It's exciting," Fillit said of the results. "The study supports the idea that IVIg could be useful for treating Alzheimer's disease. We desperately need disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer's."

A progressive, neurodegenerative disorder, Alzheimer's afflicts 2.4 to 4.5 million people in the United States, mostly those older than 65, according to the U.S. National Institute on Aging. The disease is marked by a buildup in
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