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Alzheimer's Disease Drug Gets Tryout

Alzheimer's Disease Drug Gets Tryout

The Eagle-Tribune

September 30, 2009

Sep. 30—HAVERHILL — Doctors hope a new drug that’s getting a trial in Haverhill will offer relief to those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug — Bapineuzemab — might have the power to stop the deterioration of brain function that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, said Dr. Michael McCartney, an internal medicine specialist who practices in Newburyport and is working on the drug’s trial run at ActivMed Practices and Research at 1 Water St. Two patients are being treated with the new drug, which is administered intravenously, and 11 others have given their consent for the treatment, McCartney said.

Elan, the company that manufactures Bapineuzemab, picked Haverhill as a study site because of the city’s large elderly population, said Terry Stubbs, chief executive officer of ActivMed.

The patients already enrolled in the trial were referred by their primary care physicians, who have been contacted by her company, Stubbs said. Patients enrolled in the trial pay nothing, Stubbs said.

Stubbs estimated it might take another three or four years of clinical trials before the drug is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Local providers of elderly services view the trial with optimism. Julian Rich, president of Penacook Place, a nursing and rehabilitation home serving more than 140 patients in Haverhill, said, “Anything that will stop the progression of Alzheimer’s we would wholeheartedly endorse.”

Many Penacook patients suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and Rich said the number of people struggling with the disease is growing.

If Bapineuzemab passes its clinical trial and receives FDA approval, that will be “absolutely wonderful,” Rich said. Because of the increase in the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease, Rich said there is “clearly a need” for more specialty units that treat those patients.

Theresa Chase, director of nursing at Baker-Katz Nursing Home, said if Bapineuzemab can stop the advance of Alzheimer’s disease without dangerous side effects, that’s “absolutely” good news. Many of the 72 patients at Baker-Katz struggle with the disease, and their families also suffer, she said.

“Of all the words that describe this disease, sadness stands out the most,” said Chase, who has been a geriatric nurse since 1994. “It’s a very sad disease.”

Drugs currently given to Alzheimer’s disease patients can slow its progress. It attacks the transmitters that send messages within the brain, McCartney said. He and other physicians hope Bapineuzemab can actually halt the disease’s advance.

“We don’t have any good therapies for preventing the decline of an Alzheimer’s patient,” McCartney said.

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