"This is a very exciting step in our efforts against Alzheimer's disease," says Pierre Tariot, a leader of the study and director of the University's Program in Neurobehavioral Therapeutics at Monroe Community Hospital, the University's main Alzheimer's treatment site. "Until now our efforts have been directed toward treating the symptoms of the disease, and as a result we have a whole series of drugs available or in development for people who have full-blown Alzheimer's."
In the study, Tariot and Anton Porsteinsson, the other principal investigator at the University, will randomly assign patients to receive either the cox-2 inhibitor Vioxx or a placebo for two years, and patients will be evaluated every few months by physicians. (Vioxx is manufactured by Merck, which is funding the $6 million nationwide study.) If the drug does work, fewer patients will develop the disease than physicians would normally expect.
"This is one of the first studies to look at possibly delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease in people who don't have it yet but are at risk," adds Tariot. "It's remarkable that we can even consider the possibility of prevention; just 10 years ago that thought was preposterous."