Alzheimer’s drug trial begins this week

Ireland leads international study to test effect of existing drug

A major 18-month human drug trial gets under way this week to see whether a blood pressure medication can slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

An Irish medical researcher, Prof Brian Lawlor, is co-ordinating the international trial, Nilvad (nilvadipine in Alzheimer’s disease), which involves nine countries and has funding worth €6 million provided by the European Community’s seventh framework programme research budget.

The drug, nilvadipine, is already approved for human use in cardiovascular disease. Basic research and a pilot trial, run by Prof Lawlor in conjunction with the Roskamp Institute in Florida, showed that the drug is safe and holds promise for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, said Prof Lawlor, who is the Conolly Norman professor of old age psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin and consultant psychiatrist at St James’s Hospital, Dublin.

There has been no new drug for the treatment of Alzheimer's since 2002 and many originally promising lines of research for new treatments have come to nothing.

EU funding
Prof Lawlor applied for and won EU funding about 18 months ago and since then built up the research consortium that includes Alzheimer's experts in London, Dublin and Cork, Nimijen, Gothenburg, Ulm, Milan, Szeged and Thessaloniki.


He has also been building the patient group which will include about 500 people, 100 of them based in Dublin and Cork, he said. Those selected for the trial will have a diagnosis of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s with the majority experiencing mild symptoms.

“We are trying to see does it alter the rate of progression of the disease,” he explained. Animal trials gave promising results and the earlier pilot trial did give an “efficacy signal as well”, he said.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.