Along with most every other disease, Alzheimer's remains a complete enigma to conventional medicine. Pharmaceuticals are its one response to the disease, and so far every trail has proved to be false.
The latest attempt has been to try statins, the heart drugs, on the problem. The thinking behind it is that the processes that the statins trigger to reduce cholesterol might also work to slow the progress of Alzheimer's and dementia.
To test the theory, researchers recruited 2,798 people aged 65 and over who were free of dementia at the start of the trial. However, when they compared the participants against a similar group who had never taken statins, the researchers found that the drugs offered no protection against Alzheimer's or dementia.
Meanwhile, a decision on the fate of three existing Alzheimer's drugs is imminent. The drugs, donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine, are due to be removed from the list of drugs that are available under the UK's National Health Service. The National Institute for Clinical Evidence (NICE), the group that reviews drug efficacy against cost, has recommended that the drugs be removed from NHS lists. Each drug costs £2.50 per day per patient, and none provide a worthwhile benefit.
Of course, it could be that the problem is better tackled by an approach that doesn't involve expensive drugs, but where's the bottom line in that?
(Source: Archives of Neurology, 2005; 62: 1047-51).