Alzheimer's disease patients taking the commonly prescribed drug Aricept can benefit from it after they progress to moderate-to-severe illness.

Medical digest

NEW YORK — Alzheimer’s disease patients taking the commonly prescribed drug Aricept can benefit from it after they progress to moderate-to-severe illness, a new study says.

The study also found some benefit if the patient switches from Aricept to another frequently used drug, Namenda. But the research found that combining the two drugs, common in the United States, was not significantly more effective than using Aricept alone.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The new research is reported in the new issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Drugs were supplied by Pfizer, Eisa and Lundbeck. Several authors reported having received lecture fees or other payments from those companies.

Alzheimer’s link

to protein advanced

LONDON — Scientists for the first time explained the role of a protein in the slow destruction of brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease, pinpointing a potential new target for treatments.

The protein, Dkk1, appears in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients at higher levels than in healthy brains. Dkk1 is produced by beta amyloid plaque, a defining feature of the illness, and spurs the breakdown of nerve-fiber connections in the area of the brain linked to learning and memory, scientists at University College London found.

The researchers were able to identify Dkk1 and block it in mice, raising the possibility of stopping the destruction of brain tissue before irreversible dementia sets in. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s; therapies only mitigate symptoms.

Pregnancy may

cut risk of MS

LOS ANGELES — Pregnancy is known to cause a remission in symptoms for women with multiple sclerosis. A study has found that multiple pregnancies may help prevent MS.

The study, published online Wednesday in the journal Neurology, reviewed information on 282 men and women who received a diagnosis of central nervous demyelination.

That’s a condition that reflects early symptoms of MS but falls short of an MS diagnosis. The researchers found that women who have been pregnant two or more times had a reduced risk of developing the disease.

There was no effect on men regarding the number of their offspring and onset of the disease.

Seattle Times news services