My usual purpose in Antidote is to champion a drug that has been unfairly maligned. This month I want to celebrate a discovery that is too easily obscured among quack treatments and voodoo medicine.
Alzheimer's disease is on the increase. Millions are already affected and millions more soon will be. In the meantime, great strides have been made in diagnostics—a target protein known as beta amyloid has been identified—and new techniques to identify it before the disease is full blown have been developed.
And now, amidst all the bogus vitamin and toxic treatments, amidst the unscientific hype about a powerful and successful arthritis treatment (etanercept) being injected for big-time fees into patient's necks (the drugmaker, Amgen, does not recommend this), along comes Eli Lilly with Phase II clinical trial data on LY2062430, a treatment that appears to work dramatically by binding to beta amyloid and increasing its removal from the brain. This new treatment may significantly decrease the abnormal protein in the brain which would ultimately lead to a decrease in characteristic plaques and the progression of the disease. Imagine what it will be like if we can predict Alzheimer's by genetics, identify the early plaques before they become significant and then zap them with LY2062430.
Lilly's new drug was presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease on July 30, and it received reasonable media attention, though not the kind of attention the promoter of the unscientific etanercept treatments received last year when he claimed instant miracle cures without a double-blinded randomized trial.
Whatever the future holds for LY2062430, right now its discovery deserves our loud applause.
Marc Siegel, MD, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at New York University and the author of False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear