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Experimental Drug Could Help Patients in Moderate to Severe Stages of Alzheimer's

Aired July 12, 2000 - 2:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: At the world Alzheimer's Congress in Washington, an experimental drug is in the spotlight that could help patients in the moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer's.

Here is CNN medical correspondent Rhonda Rowland.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Researchers say they may have found the first drug to help Alzheimer's patients who are in the moderate to severe stages of the disease. The experimental drug is called Memantine. It's in a new class of drugs that works on one of the basic memory systems in the brain. The drug will not stop or interfere with the disease process. Instead, in a study of 250 patients, Memantine appeared to improve symptoms of the disease.

DR. BARRY REISBERG, NYU MEDICAL SCHOOL: They did better in such basic areas as their basic thinking abilities, what we call cognition. They did better in terms of their functional abilities, in terms of the kinds of things that befall these patients, in terms of their decreased ability to dress and to bathe.

ROWLAND: Other researchers are encouraged by the findings.

DR. STEVEN DEKOSKY, ALZHEIMER'S ASSOCIATION: This is not a group of patients in whom a great deal of attention has been focused. And for us to be able to slow the decline of people with moderate disease will be immensely important, not only in terms of the total medical burden, but also to the families and to the patients themselves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLAND: Moderate to severe Alzheimer's patients have trouble with basic activities of daily life: dressing, bathing, perhaps eating. They're often a step away from nursing home care. These patients account for one-third of all Alzheimer's patients and are among the most burdened -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And when is this drug going to be available?

ROWLAND: Well, Natalie, this one study is not enough to win FDA approval. However, if there are more studies done, and they show just as good results, it is possible the drug could be on the market within three years.

It's interesting to note, however, that the drug is on the market in Germany. In fact, patients there have using it for 10 years, and it is the number-one prescribed drug for dementia.

ALLEN: Rhonda Rowland, today from Washington, thanks.

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