// News Entry

Fall 2012

Ask the Expert: Samuel Gandy, Ph.D., M.D., ADRC Associate Director

Q: I have heard there’s a new cancer drug that might work for Alzheimer’s disease – is this a new cure?

The cancer drug you may have heard about in the news is called Bexarotene and indeed, it is US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) – approved to treat certain cancers. However, as with all new drugs, the FDA needs more information about the safety of this drug – for example, what are the side effects? Does it actually work? There are currently a few different research groups looking into Bexarotene as a treatment for AD. So far, nobody has been able to confirm that this drug is safe and effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, even the effectiveness in mouse models of AD has not yet been confirmed. Until this is done, no doctors should be prescribing this drug “off label” for treatment of AD. We’ll be sure to keep you posted if there is news about this!

Q: There was a lot of media coverage in July, 2012, concerning off label use of IVIg for Alzheimer’s. How can I learn more about this therapy?

Among off label drugs, the one in widest use (which amounts to a few dozen patients who have the resources to afford it) is IVIg, which costs $4,000-$5,000 each month. A study with 300 subjects is underway and the results will be available next year. If that study confirms the benefit of IVIg and the FDA approves its use for AD, then Medicare and insurance is likely to begin reimbursing so that everyone can gain access to the drug.

Q: Does the generic version of Aricept work as well as the regular one?

The active ingredient in the generic version of Aricept, known as donepezil, is identical to the active ingredient in the trademarked version. Some differences in formulation can sometimes change effects of generic medications, but, so far, no problems with generic donepezil have been reported. This is something that has doctors on the alert and we will let our readers know if any reports appear that suggest any problems with generic donepezil.

Q: I’ve heard coconut oil cures dementia. Is that true?

This came up during our recent Participant Appreciation Day but it’s worth revisiting. Unfortunately, it is simply a rumor; allegedly, a woman reported that coconut oil reversed her husband’s dementia. Nobody seems to know her name, and there is currently no evidence showing that coconut oil can improve patients with dementia. The popularity of this rumor reflects the public’s interest in non-drug preventions and treatments of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, we have a clinical trial at our center that is looking at the anti-oxidant found in red wine and grapes, called Resveratrol, and if it is helpful to those living with AD. We have no plans to look into coconut oil, however! The best lifestyle modification that everyone can do to delay, prevent or slow progression of AD is regular vigorous exercise for at least three 30-minute sessions each week.


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