New Lilly drug hopes to prevent Alzheimer's

New Lilly drug hopes to prevent Alzheimer's
We've had clinical trials to treat Alzheimer's disease for years. Now, scientists hope to prevent it with the help of a drug made by Eli Lilly.

Peter Bristol, 70, is getting an infusion he hopes, over time, will prevent memory loss. It started when the retired horticulturist started forgetting things. He was worried because his mother had Alzheimer's and his brother is currently living with the memory-robbing disease. So he came to Butler Hospital to undergo extensive memory testing which turned out to be normal.

When he got a PET scan, it showed a buildup of amyloid protein - often a precursor to Alzheimer's - and that's when he learned about a new prevention trial.

"This is really a landmark study because it opens a new chapter in the fight against Alzheimer's and it puts the prevention of Alzheimer's on par with the prevention of the other major diseases like heart disease and cancer," said Dr. Stephen Salloway, a memory and aging specialist.

To qualify, you must be between the ages of 65 and 85. Peter qualified and now every month for three years, he'll be infused with a medication. It's about an hour of his time each session.

"It has a funny name," said Dr. Salloway. "It's called solanezumab and that's a targeted treatment against the amyloid plaques that build up in Alzheimer's."

It's not a new treatment. It's been studied before in folks with mild Alzheimer's with some success.

"So we think that testing it earlier in people who don't have any significant symptoms yet may be even more beneficial."

This is a double-blind placebo study, which means Bristol has a 50-50 chance he's getting the actual medication. He's fine with that. As a scientist, he's results oriented.

"If there is a therapy out there, if there can be some kind of a protectant - who's going to benefit?" said Bristol. "Not necessarily me so much, but my children and my grandchildren."

This is a major study being done at 60 sites worldwide as a partnership between the National Institutes of Health and Eli Lilly, which is the maker of this experimental drug. It's being coordinated by the Alzheimer's disease cooperative study.

There is one requirement and that is at least 20 percent of the study participants must be african american or hispanic, two groups where the incidence of Alzheimer's is higher.