What medications might help for Alzheimer's disease (AD) in the future?

The medical and scientific communities have been exploring medicines for Alzheimer's disease (AD) that target a particular protein, beta amyloid, which tends to accumulate in the brain as we age and is associated with dementia. The hope that these beta amyloid-targeted products could cure Alzheimer's disease meant an enormous amount of time and money was put into their development. Unfortunately, thus far, these investigational drugs have not shown any convincing benefit to people with Alzheimer's disease.

Although scientists are still pursuing new beta amyloid treatments, the scientific community is turning its attention back to neurotransmitter-targeted drugs, which, like Aricept, act on essential chemicals within the brain to augment the brain's normal functions.

The development of one such drug, called RVT-101, has shown strong evidence of benefit to cognition and the ability to perform daily living activities for people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease.

RVT-101 appears to be very well tolerated and is an oral, once-daily pill, so it's easy for people to take. Based on the results obtained to date, it has a good chance of becoming a widely used drug for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
Medications currently being studied that may one day prove useful in Alzheimer's disease (AD) treatment include the following:
  • Statins: Cholesterol-lowering drugs that could be used to help counter the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Medications intended to help reduce inflammatory processes at work in AD
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor antagonists: Medications being developed to help regulate levels of neurotransmitters involved in memory and cognition
  • Estrogen: A hormone that could prove useful in aiding memory and prolonging independent functioning in postmenopausal women with AD
  • Leuprolide: A hormone that could improve cognitive function and slow progression of mild to moderate AD in men over 65
  • Neramexane: An N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist intended to boost cognitive function in people with moderate to severe AD by blocking excess levels of a neurotransmitter called glutamate
Other investigational medical treatments include the following:
  • Stem cell therapy -- a technique that involves helping activate dormant stem cells in the brain, stimulating them to regenerate brain cells lost to AD
  • Gene therapy -- a technique that involves implanting nerve growth factor (NGF) cells, which may help prevent brain cell death

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