PHARMACY

Estrogen therapy used to treat memory loss

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK Doctors have been using estrogen drugs in attempts to battle Alzheimer’s disease in women who are either suffering menopause-related memory loss, perimenopause, or post menopause memory loss, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The doctors would prescribe the estrogen drugs to women complaining of memory loss or having trouble summoning up words or losing track of what they were doing. Within a few months, the women could go back to their offices and say they were cured.

“Women have been telling me this for 25 years,” says Elizabeth Lee Vliet, a women’s health physician, who notes that her patients often speak of feeling “fuzzy-headed.” She takes detailed blood tests and typically prescribes 17-beta estradiol, an estrogen replacement approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “They come back a couple weeks later and say ‘It was like someone turned a light bulb on my brain! I can think again!’”

Research has shown that estrogen receptors are throughout the brain, particularly in the areas that govern learning, memory and mood. Estrogen also stimulates the growth of dendritic spines that enable nerve cells to communicate, and increases the level of neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers.

One prominent study, however, the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, has found opposite results. It reported in 2004 that women taking estrogen plus progestin had a higher risk of dementia than those who took a placebo.

This study, though, had subjects who were aged 65 to 79 and were using Premarin, which is a different estrogen than used by other doctors. Also, Premarin has been stated by some experts that it doesn’t work as well as 17-beta estradiol. The age of the women also has worried some experts who said that there is a critical period of about 10 years after menopause when estrogen can protect women’s brains, while beginning to take hormones later can be harmful. Finally, the trial used a measure of cognitive function known as the “modified mini-mental state examination,” which is not sensitive enough to assess any beneficial effects that estrogen might have had on verbal or working memory.

Doctors say that the one question remaining is the length of the course of treatment.

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Study of Copaxone reveals that drug is not effective for patients in treatment of ASL

BY Diana Alickaj

WASHINGTON Copaxone, a blockbuster drug manufactured by Israel’s Teva Industries, has proven to be ineffective for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to the company.

Copaxone, which earned Teva $436 million in revenue, was subjected to a 366-patient Phase II trial to investigate if it was able to reduce deterioration in patients with ALS. According to published reports, the study showed that the drug, although safe, did not increase rate of survival among patients battling the disease.

ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, plagues about 10,000 people in the U.S. and Europe. ASL leads to paralysis, and those who are diagnosed are expected to live within 3-5 years experiencing weakness in limbs, twitching and respiratory impairment, as well as other painful symptoms. Copaxone was the leading therapy for multiple sclerosis in the U.S., but based on the new findings, Teva will continue to search for other options in treating the disease.

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Manitoba pharmaceutical regulator tries to end online pharmacies

BY Drew Buono

MANITOBA, Canada The Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association is attempting to put a stranglehold on the province’s Internet pharmacy business, according to CBC news. Manitoba conducts a good deal of online pharmacy business.

The association has approved a new rule that would prevent pharmacies from filling out-of-province prescriptions starting June 30. If pharmacies don’t comply with this new rule, they can have their licenses revoked.

Troy Harwood-Jones, of the Manitoba International Pharmacy Association, said that kind of rule is unheard of in other provinces, and in a recent vote, more than 70 percent of pharmacists voted against it.

In response, the province has assigned a mediator to try to work something out between the Internet pharmacies and the association. Although, Harwood-Jones said that if a deal wasn’t reached, he thought many of the 20 Internet pharmacies in the province would leave.

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