Alzheimer's disease takes a long time to develop, which suggests that it may be possible to design drugs that work early in the disease process, to delay the start of symptoms. Over the past decade, researchers have been testing a number of such "disease-modifying" drugs that target the earliest biological changes in Alzheimer's, reports the October 2007 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
None of the disease-modifying drugs now in development will cure Alzheimer's. But a number of them are currently in phase III clinical trials, the last stage before the FDA will consider approving the drugs for sale. Media interest has already begun to intensify. In June, for example, the AARP Bulletin trumpeted on its cover: "Finally, new drugs offer real hope for reversing the disease."
Two experts interviewed by the Mental Health Letter temper the optimism with caution. The experts note that questions remain whether these drugs will be effective enough to block Alzheimer's or safe enough to be taken for a long time and with other medications.
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