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conclusions can be drawn from this research as it is early stage, was conducted on a small number of people, and was not peer-reviewed.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.

And:

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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