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Metrifonate, A New Alzheimer Drug, Helps Behavior Problems

St. Louis, May 13, 1998 -- A new drug for Alzheimer patients appears to control psychiatric and behavioral disturbances as well as mental performance. People who took metrifonate were less likely to have hallucinations or be apathetic, depressed and agitated than people who took an inactive substance. Metrifonate also slowed the mental decline associated with Alzheimer's disease over the six-month study. The drug is under review by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for patients in the mild to moderate stages of the condition.

"There have been anecdotal reports that patients who take drugs in this class seem brighter, demonstrate more initiative and are easier to get along with in general," says John C. Morris, M.D., the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "This is the first controlled study to document benefits for behavior as well as for memory and thinking, however."

Morris, who co-directs the medical school's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, participated in the study. He is lead author of a paper in the May issue of the journal Neurology that presents the results. Bayer Corp. funded the clinical research at 24 sites in the United States, including Washington University School of Medicine. Morris reviewed the resulting data as an independent scientist, without compensation from Bayer.

Metrifonate belongs to a class of drugs called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors. These drugs slow the breakdown of a chemical messenger called acetylcholine, which is in short supply in the Alzheimer brain. Two AChE inhibitors already are on the market for treatment of Alzheimer's: tacrine (Cognex) and donepezil (Aricept).

The 24 sites in the metrifonate study enrolled 408 mild-to-moderately demented patients. At this stage of the disorder, people usually are capable of dressing, grooming and feeding themselves but are unable to ac
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Contact: Linda Sage
sage@medicine.WUSTL.edu
314-286-0119
Washington University School of Medicine
20-May-1998


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