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Biotech Science

100 Year-Old Drug Halts Progress Of Alzheimer's 108

Posted by timothy
from the highly-speculative dept.
pafischer writes "Several Australian and UK websites are running articles on this story. I'm shocked that I heard it on the Baltimore rock radio station news, but don't see it on any of the big US new websites. 'Clioquinol, developed 100 years ago, can absorb the zinc and copper compounds that concentrate in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers before dementia sets in, the study found.' Read all about it at ABC Radio AU, The Sidney Morning Herald, and The Age." Of course, the pathology of Alzheimer's is far from fully understood.
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100 Year-Old Drug Halts Progress Of Alzheimer's

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  • It was on the AP wire a while back.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:23AM (#7960394)
    100-year old drug means no patents. No patents means no profits. No profits means the drugco's won't TOUCH it. And in fact I wouldn't be surprised if we see some studies showing that it causes cancer or something.

    Sorry folks. Alzheimer's won't get an effective until Pfizer is good and READY.
    • by MissMarvel (723385) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:46AM (#7960485) Journal
      The drug companies may not touch it, but this is one of the Big A illnesses... Alzheimer's, AIDS, and Autism. It could draw a lot of attention at the NIH level.

      Remember, the drug companies weren't all that hot on research to oust hormone replacement therapy(HRT) either, but the Women's Health Initiative went forward with a vengance. As a result, Wyeth-Ayerst's Primarin took a nose-dive as millions of women decided to opt out of HRT.

      This 100 year old drug may become a "hot topic" in upcoming medical research. I just hope they have a few more patients in the next study.

      • Lithium (Score:4, Informative)

        by nmbg (740953) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @04:04AM (#7960997)
        This is the same problem with lithium. Can't be patented, so it isn't profitable enough. Lithium has been shown to prevent beta-amyloid accumulation. While beta-amyloid plaques are only associated with (not known to be causative of) Alzheimer's, the fact is that lithium may inhibit the pathological process that produces such plaques far enough upstream to be just what the doctor ordered. One problem with lithium, however, is that it's tough on the kidneys. People of Alzheimer's age might not tolerate that well -- nor other side effects like tremors. Regardless, it's been in wide use since the early 70's for other things. I believe there's some NIH-sponsored thrust to conduct clinical trials with AD patients, but don't quote me on it. If you have access, search through this summer's issues of Nature for the review article on lithium.
    • OK,so assume ACME Pharmaceuticals realizes this - theyll probably say "hey, the other drug companies arent touching it + people want it = open market". Your conclusion that "Alzheimer's won't get an effective [drug]" is flawed because of this, I believe. I think its ridiculous to presume that *every* pharmaceutical company will sit on its hands when people want this drug and (under your assumption) nobody is supplying it.
      • There might be little guys that offer it in the short term, but it wouldn't take long for Pfizer et. al. to swoop in and mop the scene with a "New and Improved" version just for the sake of killing the little supplier to keep them from becoming a big, competing supplier. Once the little supplier is dead, they can the "New and Improved" version and nobody else has the guts to come stomping on that territory again.

        It's the same general principle as a big, rich company setting up a crappy lean-to next to an

      • Wait a minute... (Score:4, Informative)

        by A55M0NKEY (554964) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @09:47AM (#7962325) Homepage Journal
        It's a 100 yr old drug that is already approved to treat *SOME* illness. Therefore somebody must make it already for that other purpose. Doctors can prescribe drugs for purposes other than that for which they were designed. They don't need anyone's permission. So where's the issue?
        • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:2, Informative)

          by mcmonkey (96054)
          Doctors can prescribe drugs for purposes other than that for which they were designed.

          Not if they're in the USA, and those purposes are not approved by the FDA, and they want to continue to practice medicine legally.

    • by Meowing (241289) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:51AM (#7960512) Homepage
      Tell that to the generic drug manufacturers, and the companies that have been cranking out the same public domain OTC remedies forever.

      Really, drug manufacturers don't mind at all if you get better from disease A and live a bit longer, because they'll get to see you when you come down with disease B a few years later. See, the neat thing about the medical industry, from a financial standpoint, is that pretty much everyone manages to get real sick and even die sooner or later, so there's always going to be an opportunity to sell something.
      • OMG, this line of thought makes me really scared of my insurance company.
        • OMG, this line of thought makes me really scared of my insurance company.

          Insurers, HMOs and such are scary for somewhat different reasons. Their job is to hold onto as much of your premium as they can, and keep it away from drug/device/diagnostic producers and healthcare providers unless there's no way around it. [Some plans are much more aggressive about this than others.] The bad news is that tradeoffs are being made on your behalf, between the absolute best treatment for a given problem and the lea

    • by ctr2sprt (574731) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @02:00AM (#7960556)
      Since when is nonsensical paranoia interesting? Common sense proves the AC's an idiot. Go down to your local pharmacy. Note the shelves full of dirt-cheap medications, both brand names and generics. Obviously drug companies can continue to make money off extremely old medications.

      The reason is incredibly simple. The entire cost of a new medication comes from years and years of research. Not just of the medication that makes it to market, but of the ten which don't. Producing the actual pills costs virtually nothing.

      So you see, it does make sense for drug companies to sell unpatented pills. They won't make a killing, but they don't need to: they invested no money in research of the medication, they have no losses to recoup. Even if they only make five cents per hundred thousand pills, it's five cents they wouldn't otherwise have.

      • Note the phrase, "either this drug or a better drug we have in development". That is the best way for any of the big drug companies to make money off of a discovery like this, by offering a better functioning alternative. Your point is valid that older drugs still function and are still available, but if there is a faster or more effective alternative, almost anyone will spend more to give their older relations the better drug.
      • for a specific purpose? I'm not suggesting that these companies are evil. But why invest money when the government could do the work? You have to produce quarterly reports. Pharmaceutical companies invest the money necessary to run clinical trials. This still needs to be done with "old" medications to use them in new applications. Granted, it isn't as expensive as developing a drug de novo, but it takes people and resources away from developing far more profitable solutions. On the other hand, there will
        • Not quite. Once a drug is on the market, there is no need to get it approved for additional uses unless the manufacturer wants to promote or advertise those additional uses. It can be prescribed without all that.

          Where drug companies can get into trouble is if an over-eager rep goes and starts touting the unapproved uses to clients. This information needs to be spread through independent channels only, or agencies like FDA get really, really pissed. Getting those agencies mad is a really poor idea.

      • Sure, the AC is a paranoiac: Alzheimer's is not likely to be solved that easily or that soon. It's possible, but not likely. And so it's easy to have some paranoid foreboding - this probably won't be a widespread cure. But I have to call bullshit on you.

        The major cost of new drugs is not research but advertising. Period. Junkets for doctors, samples, television, radio and print ads. It's an undisputed fact that the major drug companies spend twice as much on advertising as on drug development. Ever notic

    • by G4from128k (686170) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @07:41AM (#7961583)
      100-year old drug means no patents. No patents means no profits.

      The AC is wrong on two levels. First, the pharmaceutical industry is full of manufacturers that make generic drugs. These companies make profits through efficient manufacturing and distribution (versus through patents and R&D). Most people don't know about these makers because the companies have no reason to advertise.

      Second, because this is a 100-year old drug, it's approved and out there. Although nobody can advertise that the drug works for Alzheimer's until somebody does all the expensive regulatory clinical studies, any doctor can prescribe the drug of any "off-label" use. If enough web-enabled family members of Alzheimer's victims learn of the drug, they will demand the treatment from doctors, find a doctor who will give this treatment, or find an online pharmacy that wil provide the drug.

      The bottomline line is that we don't need the big pharma companies to create either supply or demand for a drug.
    • Somebody help me out here...

      I know that the pharmacos live by their patents and that's why they're willing to spend billions on R&D for a single drug.

      But what cost would there be in using this drug to treat Alzheimer's? Even if cheap clones were available, why not enter the market at an already-low price point? How many people have Alzheimer's? Times pills per day for a year, divided by clone makers equals a shit ton of money, right?

      If I had a safe, easy cure for cancer in my lab, I'd sell it for

      • It takes at least 10 years (and more likely 15-18) from when you can last patent, to when you can fisrt sell it. During that time you are losing a lot of money. You pay the people who design the drug, the people pushing all the paperwork, make the drug (and not in an efficant assembly line yet unless you also want to pay to setup the line) the people testing the drugs. Not to mention all the taxes and utilities and such. Then very few drugs are approved, so you also have the overhead of other drugs you

        • No no no...I understand the traditional research-patent-trial-filter-blockbuster-lather-r i nse-repeat cycle.

          I'm just curious why people would think the pharmacos would pass on an unpatentable drug like Clioquinol purely because it's unpatentable. There's still lots of money, and great PR to be had if someone takes it to market and puts a real dent in Alzheimer's progress.

          I mean, look at aspirin, or acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. Or Tagamet and its clones. Lots-o-dough!

          GTRacer
          - Profit motive and humani

          • Okay, so say someone does decide to presue this. They spend 10 years getting approval. IIRC the FDA gives them 3 years to sell this with a monopoly (they won't approve anyone else to sell it to reward those who put effort into research). So they have 3 years to makeup the costs of researching it. What if early on it looks like it will only help 0.5% of the people with alzheimers, which even though they can perdict with certency who it will help, ends up being a tiny population. Basicly they won't be

  • by ChopsMIDI (613634) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:24AM (#7960396) Homepage
    RAFAEL EPSTEIN: How reliable is the study if it is only 36 patients?

    COLIN MASTERS: This is, again, a pilot study, so our next step is to take it into a much larger series of patients, either this drug or a better drug we have in development. What we have on the drawing boards is a better version of this drug which is more effective and will probably go into trials hopefully before the end of this year.


    I'd like to see the results after a much more extensive study has been conducted. If this really works, which at least with these preliminary tests suggest, it'd be nice to see alzheimers start to go the way if the dodo.
    • by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @02:16AM (#7960603) Homepage Journal
      Just so you know:

      They aren't really that close.

      If you look at the graphs associated with the original paper, which is published in Archives of Neurology if you've got a way to access it (I've got a Tufts University account that I can use) - they don't show that patients regain cognitive functioning. In fact, all patients throughout the study lose cognitive functioning as measured on their ADAS cognitive sub-scale.

      Their most interesting finding, imho, is the 3 month period where patients on their drug hold relatively steady, and other patients have a slight decline (the difference is really only about 2 points on a 1-70 point rating scale, while the ADAS is 1-120).

      Is this statistically significant? Yes, I think so. And practically, I think any improvement in patients is significant. But I don't think it's significant enough to claim that the disease has been eradicated.

      Original Article Info, for anyone who wants to look it up:

      Metal-Protein Attenuation With Iodochlorhydroxyquin (Clioquinol) Targeting A[beta] Amyloid Deposition and Toxicity in Alzheimer Disease: A Pilot Phase 2 Clinical Trial
      Ritchie, Craig W. MBChB, MRCPsych; Bush, Ashley I. MBBS, PhD, FRANZCP; Mackinnon, Andrew PhD; Macfarlane, Steve MBBS; Mastwyk, Maree BN; MacGregor, Lachlan MBBS; Kiers, Lyn MBBS, FRACP; Cherny, Robert PhD; Li, Qiao-Xin PhD; Tammer, Amanda PhD; Carrington, Darryl BSc; Mavros, Christine BSc; Volitakis, Irene BSc; Xilinas, Michel MD, DSc; Ames, David MD; Davis, Stephen MD, FRACP; Beyreuther, Konrad PhD; Tanzi, Rudolph E. PhD; Masters, Colin L. MD
      Volume 60(12) December 2003 p 1685-1691
      Archives of Neurology
    • This is, again, a pilot study, so our next step is to take it into a much larger series of patients, either this drug or a better drug we have in development. What we have on the drawing boards is a better version of this drug which is more effective and will probably go into trials hopefully before the end of this year.

      This is just a pilot study with a small number of patients.

      • First it has to be scaled up to involve a lot more people.
      • Secondly there has to be long term monitoring of the side-effec
      • Though personally I'd prefer to live to 75 without alzheimers by taking a drug that kills me eventially, than live to 80, but suffer from alzheimers for the last 10.

        I've known people with alzheimers. It isn't easy. Seeing people with fridges full of rotten food because the kids are coming to visit. (well they were 2 years ago when she remembers it from, and many times since, but this month they can't) Starting to drive somewhere, and half way there forget where they are going. And many more things,


  • As much as I hate to be a spelling vigilante, I really have to point out that it's spelt SYDNEY. It annoys me no end when people use 'i' in Sydney. Luckily, the Sydney Morning Herald get it right.
  • by Tuxinatorium (463682) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @03:10AM (#7960821) Homepage
    100 Year-Old Drug Halts Progress Of Alzheimer's Rather, all the drug has been shown to do in this study is stop a few of the many chemical abnormalities that are coincident with alzheimers. It is unknown whether these chemicals actually do anything to cause alzheimers. They may as well be a byproduct of it, for all we know. It is also unknown how else this drug alters brain chemistry and what the side effects of that could be. So proclaiming it a miracle cure is very premature.
  • by floydigus (415917) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @07:28AM (#7961551)
    1. Loss of short term memory.
    2. Confusion.
    3. Short term memory loss.
    • 4. ??
      5. Profit!

      I've never, ever posted one of these lame jokes before, I just couldn't help myself.
      BTW, I'm of the opinion that if there is a disease or imbalance, there is a natural/herbal treatment for it; we may not ever find it, but I bet it is their.
      Um. does anyone have a mnemonic for when to use "there" as opposed to "their" in a sentence? I've been having problems with it for like 30 years.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Well the rate of Alzheimer's has been increasing rapidly, so I don't at all doubt that it can be prevented naturally. Just eat healthy unprocessed foods like our bodies evolved to do, and don't take in so many preservatives, pollutants, etc. Alzheimer's along with a bunch of other diseases would be much less common.

        That will never happen because people are too arrogant and ignorant, and somehow feel that they are cheating themselves if they don't suck down mad-cow and nitrite filled hotdogs, nutritionally e

        • Well the rate of Alzheimer's has been increasing rapidly, so I don't at all doubt that it can be prevented naturally. Just eat healthy unprocessed foods like our bodies evolved to do, and don't take in so many preservatives, pollutants, etc. Alzheimer's along with a bunch of other diseases would be much less common.

          Of course, Alzheimer's has also certainly increased as our lifespan increased past 30 years...

      • BTW, I'm of the opinion that if there is a disease or imbalance, there is a natural/herbal treatment for it; we may not ever find it, but I bet it is their.

        I don't want to come down too hard on you, but you've just asserted an unprovable hypothesis. To say, based on no other evidence, that such treatments exist even if never found seems a remarkable leap of faith...

        On the other hand, many (indeed, the vast majority) of drugs in use today are derived from so-called 'natural' sources. The chemistry is o

      • Um. does anyone have a mnemonic for when to use "there" as opposed to "their" in a sentence? I've been having problems with it for like 30 years.

        I just thought of one, so here ya' go. "Their" is the posessive of "they". Think tHEIR -> HEIR -> inHEIRitance -> ownership. Combine that with the tHERE -> HERE -> place association by another reply, and you should have a handy pair of 'em.

        • Thats Insane!
          But, it just. might. work.

          The Back story: I had a Evil 6th grade Grammer teacher (at Raccoon Elementary school, Raccoon township, illinois) who insisted that unless you learned the predicates, prepositions, participles, etc, you could not survive in society. As I was reading Asimov & Niven at the time, and could write sentences that were completely understandable, I thought this was a load of crap.
          So, I didn't bother paying any attention whatsoever to grammer until 12th grade, and then man
      • Their sleigh is over there. I put a word with 'ei' in it next to the possessive form. Also, the word next to the other form, over, has 'er' in it. Does that help? Someone can go ahead and mod this as offtopic, but it was the only way I knew to respond.
  • that Juan Antonio Samaranch was very pleased that Sidney was going to host the Olympic games but was very dissapointed when Sydney, New South Wales, Australia actually got them.

    On the other hand, Sydney did a nice job hosting the Olympic Games.
  • It's been known for the past few years that Alzheimer's and Creutzfeld-Jacobs Disease (CJD) are eerily similar [bbc.co.uk], especially considering that the symptoms of Alzheimer's and CJD are also eerily similar.

    In fact, at least 13% [cyber-dyne.com] of Alzheimer's cases are indeed CJD caused by mad cow. If larger studies were done, this percentage could end up much higher.

    It may turn out that Alzheimer's is due to mad cow, or its predecessor, mad sheep (scrapie).

    I hope that any new studies of this drug also focus on how it works

    • It may turn out that Alzheimer's is due to mad cow, or its predecessor, mad sheep (scrapie). There is little to no chance that alzheimers is caused by mad-cow. Is it a related disease? Perhaps. The same disease? Not a chance.
      The simplest assumption would be that there is far more mad cow in the system than anyone wants to say
      This is stupid. The *simplest* assumption is that there is no mad cow in the system, and to assume that the above is an insane conspiracy theory. Perhaps the fact that there is no kn
      • No, the simplest and most logical assumption is that there is indeed mad cow in the system.

        Over 13% of Alzheimer's deaths in the US are actually caused by mad cow. Using simple logic, one can see that there must be quite a bit of mad cow in the system to cause that many deaths.

        Also, that there is mad cow in the USA on the loose is the simplest assumption because close to zero testing has been done in the US -- making the situation very similar to what happened in Britain/Europe before they found major B

        • I would love to see some sources on these purported facts you are quoting.

          • Here's a recap [nih.gov] from December 2003 of what is happening with CJD.

            As the article says, it's possible that tens of thousands of cases of CJD in the US are going unrecognized.

            Modern research is showing that prion-like proteins are involved with memory according to this article [dementia.com] (note the links to Cell at the end).

            There's a lot more information out there. It's not to say that everything is 100% understood at this point in time. What we do know...

            (1) Alzheimer's is on an incredibly fast ramp to the point

            • Despite being a link to an NIH web page, the NIH actually archives most or all health-related stories submitted via UPI/Reuters/AP there, regardless of credibility.

              As with most mainstream media, the news article cited no references, leaving the public sitting anywhere between apathy and hysteria with no real way to verify facts and separate those facts from mere unbased assertions.

              The other link to dementia.com is very interesting. But that's only because it indicates that prions may play a normal role i
      • "The simplest assumption would be that there is far more mad cow in the system than anyone wants to say"
        This is stupid. The *simplest* assumption is that there is no mad cow in the system, and to assume that the above is an insane conspiracy theory. Perhaps the fact that there is no known mad cow in the system holds less weight with you than it should.


        Inflamatory, perhaps. Stupid... who made you the bearer of all knowledge?

        If one downer has Mad Cow Disease out of the 20,500 downers tested and there w
    • In fact, at least 13% [cyber-dyne.com] of Alzheimer's cases are indeed CJD caused by mad cow.

      A citation. Please. A *real* one, not the drivel that appears on that website you linked to, which I can only presume is your own. Go on, find that article in PubMed [nih.gov] and let us read more than that. That's not evidence, it's a statement. I'm convinced that you're a hysterical idiot without the first bloody idea what you're on about. You might just convince me that your brains aren't completely rotted if you
      • I googled the paper mentioned in that cyber-dyne link, and found that in numerous other articles, that paper is referenced for the sole purpose of quoting the 13% statistic which results from a sample of 46 individuals.

        The abstract is listed in PubMed [nih.gov], but does not purport to make any statements on mad cow/BSE.

      • If you have an authentic desire to understand what is going on, go and do the research yourself. Very few posts on Slashdot are intended to be self-contained proofs. Do the research instead of throwing a silly temper tantrum and dumping your anger on me. That's just the act of an emotionally immature little girl.

        As you are going into some sort of medical field, I hope you learn how to be a pro-active thinking sort of person, not just a reactive "lose your rag" naysayer.

        Let me remind you from your study

        • Trolling at it's worst.

          He (or she) asked for a source for your claims, giving her an article citation that proved or even claimed linkage between the two wouldn't have been out of the question. Ranting about his (or her) scientific shortcomings was completely unneccessary. In all areas of science background reading or citations are provided with all claims of proof or fact.
          • You are making a defense of a person who was insulting and demeaning without any need to be so:

            "not the drivel that appears on that website you linked to, which I can only presume is your own."

            "I'm convinced that you're a hysterical idiot without the first bloody idea what you're on about."

            "You might just convince me that your brains aren't completely rotted..."

            "...or better, don't come back at all."

            Additionally this person hypocritically didn't offer any information herself, didn't put an oun

    • learn it first. Autopsied Alzheimer's brain shows no sign of the prion-nucleated chain reaction that is characteristic of Mad Cow or other prion diseases. It is amyloid-beta that accumulates in Alzheimer's. And it isn't even known whether the amyloid "plaques" are causative or simply an anomalous by-product.
      • I don't make any claims to being a prion/Alzheimer's scientist, so please chill out on whatever harcore "proved from quantum theory and up" version of "science" that is running around in your head.

        There was violent resistance to the very concept of "mad cow" in the first place... resistance that caused many more people and cows to die.

        No one understands 100% how Alzheimer's works or how people get CJD. Initial reports have shown that CJD does come from mad cow and that CJD does have many of the same sym

  • This discussion [slashdot.org] from earlier cited some new research that suggests that some nano-particles can migrate directly into the brian via the olfactories... can anybody think of a good source of nano-sized "zinc and copper compounds that concentrate in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers" - industrial, natural, or otherwise?
  • There are clearly a number of Research savy people on /.,who should be saying things like..Small studies that purport some miraculous cure are a dime a dozen; real drugs that have a Theraputic index are rare. Example: About 20 years ago, a surgeon in mexico reports ASTONISHING, MIRACULOUS results tranplanting fetal tissue into the brains of parkinsons patients - people virtually frozen for years are playing tennis. As a result, scientists around the world devote scarce $$ and time on followup studies ...and
  • Be nice if this work on Parkinson's disease also. Which one of the articles showed some improvement also.

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