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Progress Against Dementia: Drug slows Alzheimer's in severely ill patients

A drug already sold in Europe hampers the relentless assault of late-stage Alzheimer's disease, a new study reveals. The finding suggests that the drug, called memantine, could help patients previously considered untreatable.

"This is really the first drug that seems to have had salutary effects in the more advanced cases of Alzheimer's disease," says Neil S. Buckholtz, a neuroscientist who heads the Dementia and Aging Branch of the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md.

Although the drug has been used in Germany against dementias since the 1980s, its effectiveness had never been definitively demonstrated in a study of Alzheimer's patients. The first evidence that memantine might slow late-stage Alzheimer's disease came in 1999 from a preliminary report by scientists in Latvia, says Barry Reisberg of New York University School of Medicine.

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