Friday, 20 July 2012

Another 'cure' for Alzheimer's

On 18 July, the Express was at it again:

Despite the headline - Pill to stop Alzheimer's: News treatment will stop disease for three years - there is no pill.

What the research - conducted on 24 people - is actually about is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) which:

is actually given by injection into a blood vessel.

The article by Giles Sheldrick does say that:

Trials of the drug...have proved so successful it could be available at chemists in pill form within a decade.

So there 'could' be a pill. At some point within the next ten years.

The NHS Behind the Headlines analysis points out:

Limited conclusions can be drawn from this research as it is early stage, was conducted on a small number of people, and was not peer-reviewed. Larger studies that compare IVIG to other existing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are required to determine how safe and effective the drug is.


The research suggests that IVIG can slow down the progression of some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's but this certainly does not amount to a cure. It is unclear how long the beneficial effects of IVIG may last or whether everyone treated with IVIG would experience any benefits.

All these caveats are extremely important, given the Express' eye-catching and premature headline claim, plus the first line of the article, which states:

Alzheimer's sufferers and their devastated families were last night given new hope after scientists hailed the “most exciting” breakthrough yet in the search for a cure.

Given all the research that will need to take place over the next ten years or so, there's a very real danger that instead of giving 'new hope', such coverage gives only false hope.

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