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Drug, produced from pigs offers hope to vascular dementia patients

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Those who suffer from the debilitating condition known as dementia may now benefit from a "promising" new treatment made from pigs' brains, researchers say. Called cerebrolysin, the drug improves concentration, memory processing and mood in patients who suffer from a variant of the condition known as vascular dementia.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - The new drug is licensed in some countries for dementia, stroke and traumatic brain injury -- not yet either in the U.S. or U.K.

"Our review suggests that Cerebrolysin can help improve cognitive and global function in patients with mild to moderate severity vascular dementia," Researcher Li He of the Department of Neurology at Sichuan University in Sichuan, China says.

The drug is produced from pig brain proteins which have produced some positive results from small vascular dementia trials. Larger trials are currently underway.

The drug is not easy to administer. In order for effectiveness, regular intravenous infusions are necessary. The review analyzed the most up-to-date evidence from six trials involving 597 people.

All test subjects were given Cerebrolysin intravenously in different daily concentrations for different treatment periods, from a few weeks to three years, depending on the trial.

Cerebrolysin had been found to have significantly improved brain function based on testing recall, arithmetic or other cognitive abilities.

It also had a small positive effect on patients" overall clinical state and mood. Long-term treatment may have greater benefits, although most of the trials were short.

Vascular dementia is a common form of dementia. It occurs following damage to the network of blood vessels supplying the brain.

While some symptoms are similar to Alzheimer's disease and stroke, people with vascular dementia often experience difficulty thinking quickly, concentrating and communicating, as well as seizures and severe confusion.

"The results are promising but due to low numbers of trials, inconsistencies between trials, risk of bias in the way some of the trials were conducted and lack of long-term follow-up, we cannot yet recommend Cerebrolysin as a routine treatment for vascular dementia," Dr. He said.

In addition, no serious side effects were reported due to taking the drug.

"This indicates to U.S. that Cerebrolysin is safe and well tolerated by patients with vascular dementia," He said. But the fact that it has to be given in regular intravenous infusions means it could be impractical for use on a large scale."

"This review found that Cerebrolysin does appear to have some cognitive benefits for people with vascular dementia, although it is not clear how these might translate into day-to-day improvements in people's lives," Dr. Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer's Research U.K. says.

"It is positive to see potential new treatments tested in people, but larger clinical trials are needed before we could know whether Cerebrolysin could be a feasible treatment option for people with the condition.

"Research into new treatments is absolutely vital, but without continued investment, promising findings cannot be taken forward. We must ensure that research into dementia remains a national priority."
 

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