Archive for November, 2010

Alzheimer’s Disease: New Medicines in Development

Last week I told you about the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and their report: 2010 Report: Medicines in Development for Alzheimer’s Disease. This report talks about how the biopharmaceutical research companies have nearly 100 medicines in development. Today there are 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and by 2050, the number is expected to jump to 13.5 million if no new medicines are found to prevent, delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently there are only five medications on the market, but they are only temporary measures — they don’t work forever. The last one was approved in 2003 … that’s seven years ago. We have no vaccine available and in a post I wrote last month, they are still testing it on animals. According to the report, “America’s biopharmaceutical companies today have 98 medicines in the later stages of the pipeline, meaning they are either in clinical trials or awaiting FDA review.”

Furthermore, the report states:

Even modest progress can drastically change the trajectory, which some warn is like a “tsunami” headed our way. For example, a breakthrough that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by just five years would mean a significant drop in the number of Alzheimer’s patients. Instead of 13.5 million Americans suffering from the disease in 2050, the number would be 7.7—only a little more than today. Overall, a treatment to delay onset by five years would save the health care system $447 billion.

Most important is the suffering that would be reduced for the families involved. Click here to read the full report.

Related to this was a roundtable discussion which I was invited to consisting of representatives from pharmaceutical companies Merck (David Michelson, MD), Pfizer (Phil Iredale, Ph.D.), and Eli Lilly (Richard Mohs, Ph.D.) PhRMA was represented by David Wheadon, MD and playwright Trish Vrandenburg of US Against Alzheimer’s who wrote The Apple Doesn’t Fall. Bloggers who participated besides myself included Lillie Ammann from A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye and Joanne Reynolds of Blueprint for Caregiving. Click here to read Lillie’s summary. A transcript of the roundtable can be found here on PhRMA’s Web site.

To listen to researchers from Merck, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca, watch the video below.

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Last week Heather Stephenson of Edelman, the public relations firm for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), sent me links for a report (2010 Report: Medicines in Development for Alzheimer’s Disease) and video from PhRMA. In my next post I will talk about the report. In the meantime, the video below reminds us of the staggering numbers.

As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving 2010 in the United States, I am thankful that the pharmaceutical companies are in communication with each other as well as joint venturing with many research institutions to find a cure for this devastating disease. The video below reminds us of the staggering numbers of people affected by the disease itself, not to mention the effects on all of the caregivers. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by Alzheimer’s and related diseases and wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Alzheimer’s Disease and Beet Juice


We’ve heard about taking Omega 3s, turmeric, resveratrol … all to prevent inflammation in the brain which in turn might help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. And now, it’s beet juice. Researchers at Wake Forest University found that drinking beet juice can increase blood flow to the brain in older adults. Previous studies have shown that drinking beet juice can lower blood pressure so in this study, they wanted to show that it can also increase blood flow to the brain.

This study was done at Wake Forest’s Translational Science Center; Fostering Independence in Aging. According to director Daniel Kim-Shapiro, poor blood flow is believed to be associated with dementia and poor cognition. In an article from Wake Forest:

High concentrations of nitrates are found in beets, as well as in celery, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables like spinach and some lettuce. When you eat high-nitrate foods, good bacteria in the mouth turn nitrate into nitrite. Research has found that nitrites can help open up the blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen specifically to places that are lacking oxygen. For more information click here.

This was a small study conducted on only 14 adults 70 and older. But the researchers are encouraged because it increased blood flow to the areas of the brain commonly associated with degeneration leading to dementia.

I’ve never had beet juice, but I do like fresh beets. If you’ve never tried beets, you boil them like potatoes (although it could take slightly longer). We’ve also found a recipe for grilling sliced beets and it was delicious. Now it’s time to broaden my experience and look for beet juice.

University of Pittsburgh Heinz Chapel

A study done at the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer Disease Research Center, The impact of physical activity on neurocognitive function in adults with cognitive impairment, led by Kirk Erickson, PhD, found that greater amounts of walking are associated with greater gray matter volume, which in turn is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment. The study, published in Neurology, showed that walking 72 blocks was necessary to detect increased gray matter volume, but walking more than 72 blocks did not spare additional volume.

According to Medscape Medical News, Dr. Erickson stated, “These findings are really quite astonishing.  Other studies have previously shown that exercise is related to brain function, but the fact that we found that walking as little as 1 mile a day is related to brain volume 9 years later, and dementia 13 years later, is truly novel and really quite impressive.”

Furthermore, BBC quotes Dr. Erickson, “If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative.”

If you have not yet started moving, what’s hold you back? Let’s start walking.

Is there a link between the flu vaccine and Alzheimer’s disease? As I was researching the information in my last post for the Alzheimer’s vaccine, I stumbled across an article that stated:

According to Hugh Fudenberg, MD, the world’s leading immunogeneticist and 13th most quoted biologist of our times (nearly 850 papers in peer review journals), if an individual has had five consecutive flu shots between 1970 and 1980 (the years studied) his/her chances of getting Alzheimer’s Disease is ten times higher than if they had one, two or no shots. I asked Dr. Fudenberg why this was so and he said it was due to the mercury and aluminum that is in every flu shot (and most childhood shots).  The gradual mercury and aluminum buildup in the brain causes cognitive dysfunction.  Is that why Alzheimer’s is expected to quadruple? Notes: Recorded from Dr. Fudenberg’s speech at the NVIC International Vaccine Conference, Arlington, VA September, 1997.  Quoted with permission. Alzheimer’s to quadruple statement is from John’s Hopkins Newsletter Nov 1998.

That’s a pretty frightening statement for those of us really concerned about the future. On further investigation, I found that the South Carolina medical board found Fudenberg “guilty of engaging in dishonorable, unethical, or unprofessional conduct.” Click here for more information.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “there is absolutely no evidence that flu vaccines contribute in any way to Alzheimer’s disease, and it is hard to imagine a mechanism of how this could affect amyloid or tau.” The Canadian Medical Journal reported, “Past exposure to vaccines against diphtheria or tetanus, poliomyelitis and influenza may protect against subsequent development of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The bottom line is that you need to decide whether the flu shot is for you. If your immune system is very strong, you might not need it. On the other hand, if it’s compromised, then do some research and make your decision. To your health!

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