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Esther Heerema, MSW

Study: Treatment Stabilized Alzheimer's Patients for 36 Months

By July 23, 2012

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Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) as a treatment for Alzheimer's is currently being studied in a Phase 3 clinical trial and, as reported at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) this past week, it's demonstrating some remarkable success. After receiving IVIG 0.4g/kg every two weeks for 36 months, participants displayed no decline in cognitive functioning, memory, daily functioning and mood as measured on several tests.  In other words, they remained stable for 3 years.

For the first 6 months, the double-blind study compared those receiving IVIG to those receiving a placebo. After 6 months, all participants received IVIG.  Researchers found that while no decline was seen in participants who were treated from the beginning of the study, those who initially received the placebo for 6 months and those who received a different dose than 0.4g/kg did demonstrate a decline. However, the placebo group's decline slowed when they were receiving IVIG. According to the AAIC, participants tolerated the IVIG well.

I do have to note that the number of people in this study is very small- 16 patients ended up participating for the full 36 months. However, the success demonstrated is this study is quite significant.

As mentioned, a Phase 3 clinical trial is already underway to continue testing, with results coming in less than a year. I'll update as I hear more.

For those of you who'd like to know a little more about IVIG, the AAIC explains it this way:

"IVIG is a blood product that is administered intravenously. Each dose contains pooled antibodies extracted from the plasma of more than 1,000 blood donors. IVIG is given to immune deficient patients who have decreased or absent antibody production capabilities to prevent infections. It is mainly used in immune deficiencies, autoimmune diseases, and acute infections."

July 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm
(1) Alan Hall says:

16 is bordering on anecdotal, isn’t it? And there was a placebo group, and patients who received a different amount and didn’t benefit, so I’m thinking the “successful” group was about 4.

You didn’t mention how cognitive decline was measured, nor what the actual difference was between the placebo group and those receiving the dose. I’ve read that American placebo response is rising, and would like to know how many of the placebo group also remained stable.

I’m thinking you told us everything you could, and that you don’t have the information available.

July 24, 2012 at 1:26 am
(2) Jim Bair says:

Sounds interesting. If it should prove out, what kind of costs are we talking about?

July 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm
(3) Amanda says:

When will it be available, and how much? I need it now for my mum!!!!!!

July 31, 2012 at 11:03 pm
(4) Esther Heerema, MSW says:

To Alan Hall,

You can see the rest of the press release from the Alzheimer’s Association here. I didn’t include everything from the press release because my goal was to provide a summary of the study. You ask great questions.

There were 5 subjects (out of the 16 who completed the entire 36 months of the study) who initially received the placebo, and the other 11 who were treated with varying doses of the IVIG.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the researchers used standard measures of cognition, memory, daily functioning and mood (ADAS-Cog, CGIC, 3MS, ADCS-ADL, NPI, QOL).

Let me know if you have further questions, and thanks for asking!

July 31, 2012 at 11:17 pm
(5) Esther Heerema, MSW says:

To Jim & Amanda,

I don’t know the cost at this time, although information suggests that it currently is quite costly. As for availability, IVIG is used for other medical conditions but it’s not yet approved for treatment of Alzheimer’s. It’s definitely encouraging that it’s already in stage 3 of a clinical trial, so hopefully it’ll continue to show such positive results. The press release stated that the results will be completed in less than a year.

Thanks for your interest. I’ll add more information as I hear it!

August 7, 2012 at 12:22 am
(6) Erika says:

My mom is in late stage alzheimer…could IVIG be of any good for her? Thank you in advance for your answer and congratulations for your noble work!

August 7, 2012 at 9:14 am
(7) Esther Heerema, MSW says:

Hi Erika,

The research thus far demonstrated that IVIG was associated with the lack of progression in Alzheimer’s symptoms. This is pretty significant since the medications currently available may slow down the progression but have not shown the ability to keep symptoms stable for 3 years.

What the research did not show was that IVIG reversed the symptoms of dementia, so if that is what you would be hoping for with your mom, this particular study didn’t demonstrate that effect. Your question is a good one, and perhaps one that will be researched at some point.

Thanks for writing. I wish you and your mom the best.

August 8, 2012 at 12:46 am
(8) Erika says:

Thank you Esther for your answer, I really appreciate it! It is sad that it might be a little to late for us…you know, my mom was diagnosed with the disease when she was only 65, now she is 72 but the doctor said that studies show the disease started to develop at least 9 years ago…she is not even a grandma yet…my sister and I are in our 30´s and trying to stay strong and happy for mom…We live in Mexico City and it is really difficult to find support of any kind in this city even though it is one of the largest cities in the world…

Thank you for your wishes! I hope you keep up your great work some day I would like to be of help also to families that will be in my place….

August 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm
(9) Jj says:

I think what people want is a cure. I know that is what I pray for. We have meds to slow it but the symptoms are still there. What would be the benefits to prolonging such a terrible disease?

October 8, 2013 at 12:17 am
(10) lim am says:

you leave a link in response to the question(s) asked bt alan hall and others at the end of the newsletter. it isnt working. do you have another or can it be fixed?

October 8, 2013 at 9:31 pm
(11) Esther Heerema, MSW says:

Hi lim am,

Thanks for letting me know. The link was to a press release on the Alzheimer’s Association website that was removed. Here’s another link that describes the study on the US National Library of Medicine: New Alzheimer’s drug can stop symptoms for three years. Hope that this is helpful!


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