Two FDA-approved drugs can improve cognition in Alzheimer’s patients

New research conducted by The Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado discovers that two FDA-approved drugs can help improve cognition in Alzheimer’s patients. The unexpected results occurred after researchers tested hundreds of medications to see whether ones prevented the development of the amyloid plaques in the brain that are thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease.

The study confirmed that the protein known as APOE4’s main function is that it promotes the formation of amyloid plaques.

Dr. Noah Johnson and Dr. Huntington Potter then looked through 595 drugs at a pharmacological library from the National Institutes of Health, and they found some that particularly inhibited the effect of APOE4 on the development of amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease. They used patient records from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC) to evaluate and determine what happened to patients prescribed these medications.

“What we found is that if they took either Imipramine or Olanzapine – two of the main drugs that we found – their memory improved, and their diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease was also improved. So, they got better,” said Dr. Potter.

As depression and psychosis are frequent in patients affected by Alzheimer’s disease, they’ve often been prescribed the FDA-approved antipsychotic olanzapine and the antidepressant imipramine. This gave the researchers a substantial number of patients for the comparison of effects.

“Compared to those who did not take these drugs, they reverted from Alzheimer’s disease to mild cognitive impairment or from mild cognitive impairment to normal,” he added.

With more than 5.5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, the cost of this condition is around $200 billion annually.

The new findings present an opportunity for CU to seek clinical trials of both drugs in an effort to help curb the effects of Alzheimer’s.

“Because these are FDA-approved drugs that we found that seem to help people with Alzheimer’s disease, the opportunity to immediately introduce them to patients in a clinical trial can occur right here at the Anschutz Medical Campus,” Dr. Potter adds.

The full paper is available on Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.

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