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Arthritis Drug May Improve Alzheimer's
Amgen, Wyeth Arthritis Treatment Eases Alzheimer's
  By Elizabeth Lopatto
Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Alzheimer's symptoms improved in just 10 minutes in a single patient injected with Amgen Inc. and Wyeth's anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel, according to a case report by University of California scientists.
The patient, an 81-year-old physician, could remember facts such as the year and the state he lived in after one spinal shot of Enbrel, according to researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before the shot, he couldn't recall such details. After the treatment he was also ``noticeably calmer, less frustrated and more attentive,'' the authors wrote.
In 2006, the same researchers reported that 15 Alzheimer's patents with mild to severe symptoms showed ``sustained cognitive improvement'' after six months of weekly Enbrel injections. Studies suggest an excess of the inflammation protein blocked by Enbrel, called TNF-alpha, is involved in the disorder's development, the authors reported in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.
``This absolutely has the potential to be a disease- modifying treatment,'' said Edward Tobinick, one of the study's authors and an associate professor at the UCLA School of Medicine. ``Since this report, our patient has received several other doses, and he's continued to show a therapeutic benefit.''
No other patients were involved in this latest research, so there was no control group. Also, the patient, his family and the doctor were aware of the treatment.
``The concept is interesting,'' said Michael Lampe, a spokesman for Madison, New Jersey-based Wyeth, in a telephone interview today. ``In general, we don't discuss early stage research.''
``There is insufficient scientific data to support pursuit of a TNF inhibitor as a means of treating Alzheimer's,'' said Sonia Fiorenza, a spokeswoman for Thousand Oaks, California- based Amgen, in an e-mailed statement.
Inflammation Interrupted
Enbrel and similar medications may interrupt the inflammation that produces a substance called beta amyloid, which causes Alzheimer's characteristic tangles in the brain. TNF-alpha, or tumor necrosis factor alpha, may also interfere with the way neurons communicate, so Enbrel may help brain cells transmit their messages, said Tobinick, who disclosed in the report he owns stock in Amgen and has patents for giving TNF treatments to patients with Alzheimer's.
Tobinick hasn't tested other TNF-alpha-blockers, though they too may aid in treatment, he said.
``My natural inclination would be to be highly skeptical,'' said Thomas Finucane, a professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. He noted the limited sample size.
More Study Warranted
Amgen and Wyeth's Enbrel, approved in 1998, was the first rheumatoid arthritis drug from proteins instead of chemicals, a biotechnology class of TNF-inhibitors that includes Abbott Laboratories' Humira, Johnson & Johnson's Remicade and Bristol- Myers Squibb Co.'s Orencia.
Enbrel and similar medications ``are worthy of further investigation, and may lead to earlier therapeutic intervention which may have the potential to favorably affect the natural history of Alzheimer's disease,'' the researchers said in the report.
Amgen fell 9 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $47.56, at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. Wyeth fell 22 cents, or less than a percent, to $47.14 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
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