The first new drug in the world for the management of Alzheimer’s symptoms in almost two decades was approved by the Chinese government. This is probably the sole treatment with the possibility to reverse the condition.
According to the National Medical Products Administration, the drug, named Oligomannate, is approved for treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and for improvement of the cognitive function.
Dr Song Juexian, Beijing neurologist, spoke for a lot of people in her profession saying that ‘long in the dark, Alzheimer’s has finally seen a dawn from the East’.
However, Juexian, who works in Xuanwu Hospital, claims that this is ‘far from the end of the fight’.
The Development of Oligomannate for Alzheimer’s
The creation of the new drug was inspired by the low level of Alzheimer’s among elderly who eat seaweed on a regular basis.
The research team from China, led by Dr Geng Meiyu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, began looking into potential connections.
In 1997, they discovered a one-of-a-kind sugar in seaweed which could play a pivotal role in the phenomenon. However, they never anticipated that transforming this idea into an effective medication would require more than 20 years.
Geng said in an interview last year that he often felt lonely because others were developing small molecule medicine. Using sugar with large molecular structure was unprecedented, claims Geng.
Alzheimer’s Does Not Have a Cure
Alzheimer’s disease remains without a cure. With the degeneration of the brain cells, patients struggle with symptoms like depression, repeating words, getting lost, and forgetting faces of family members and friends.
By the year of 2050, there will be 150 million people with the condition, claims the WHO, and more than ¼ of these people will be in China.
The brain function deterioration which this illness causes can be divided into 7 stages. This new drug has been proven beneficial on conditions up to the 4th stage.
This stage is characterised by symptoms like difficulty remembering what was eaten for breakfast, adding simple numbers, paying bills, and remembering life history details.
After the first identification of this illness that happened in 1906 by Dr Alois Alzheimer, it continues being one of the biggest headaches in the health industry.
Investments into Finding a Cure for Alzheimer’s
In the past twenty years, pharmaceutical companies have invested billions of dollars and tested 320 candidate drugs on clinical trials.
However, just five of these were approved for the alleviation of the symptoms; however, none of them could cease the withering of the brain cells.
The costly failures have led to a large number of Alzheimer’s programmes to cease.
Chinese Team of Doctors Publishes a Paper
The team led by Dr Geng published a paper which announced a significant breakthrough. They discovered that Oligomannate was a multitasking agent.
Namely, it didn’t just lower the protein formation which damages the brain neurons, but also regulated the bacteria colonies in the human intestines which lowers the chance of inflammation in the brain.
The pharmaceutical company from Shanghai, Green Valley, will be producing the drug. According to the approval document, they’re required to continue the research on the mechanisms and safety and effectiveness evaluations.
The clinical trial done with more than 800 volunteers found the cure to better the cognition by 2.54 points in a test with scores from 0 to 70. Patients scoring 16 or more points could be diagnosed with the illness.
The doctors emphasized that this drug can’t cure significantly degenerated brains. Those with severe Alzheimer’s who can’t bathe or go to the toilet on their own won’t benefit from it.
Moreover, it’s not a precautionary measure for elderly who don’t have any Alzheimer’s symptoms because the impact on the mass population isn’t yet known.