Alzheimer's drug trial test used for 20 years appears worthless

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: Alzheimer''s drug, drug trials, failure

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(NaturalNews) What if a test of thinking abilities used to analyze whether Big Pharma drugs can help slow or treat Alzheimer's weren't actually accurate? And what if researchers had been relying on this screwed up test for decade upon decade? As amazing as it sounds, that appears to be the case.

Research led by Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry concludes the cognitive test used in Alzheimer's drug trials is flawed. It's so flawed, in fact, that it doesn't track changes in the early stages of memory robbing Alzheimer's disease. Why is this so extraordinarily important? Because data from this key stage is necessary to show whether or not a new drug works.

The test in question is the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale Cognitive Behavior Section (ADAS Cog). Developed back in the 1980s, it's made up of 11 component parts including memory tests, language skills, naming objects and responding to commands. Patients are scored on each section resulting in a single overall score. The lower the total score, the better their cognitive performances are supposed to be. Until now, the ADAS Cog test was considered sort of a "gold standard" for assessing changes in thinking abilities as Alzheimer's supposedly starts to destroy a person's memory.

But the new research, published as two studies in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, which investigates the role of the test, questions its effectiveness. The results show that the assumed-accurate-for-decades ADAS Cog doesn't work to track changes in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Based on their findings, the Plymouth-based research team is calling for urgent changes to the ADAS Cog test. They are also not ruling out the possible need to throw the whole thing out and start over with a new test, either.

"It is impossible to say precisely the extent to which the ADAS Cog's flaws have undermined the numerous clinical trials in which it has been used," Professor Jeremy Hobart, who headed the study, said in a media statement.

"It has been used, unchanged, for many years and its apparent contribution to suboptimal trials has led a number of drug companies to rethink their strategies. However, it is very clear that in its current form the ADAS Cog underestimates cognitive differences between people and changes over time," Hobart added. "To determine if treatments, developed from painstaking years of research, work in expensive studies we need to invest in developing measurement instruments that are fit for purpose. This requires the routine use of different methods. In its current form, the ADAS Cog is not working in people with mild Alzheimer's disease."

While the drug companies have made little progress coming up with ways to halt or reverse Alzheimer's disease, there is research that suggests natural health approaches can help. For example, as Natural News has previously covered, scientist William B. Grant, PhD, of the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC) has come up with a hypothesis about the cause of mind-robbing Alzheimer's disease and other vascular dementias: vitamin D deficiency.


About the author:
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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