Dementia & Alzheimer’s drug trial with sleep hormone melatonin

Published on March 28, 2011 - By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

A new drug is in the making that could improve the quality of life for people with dementia. Glasgow-based medical research company CPS Research is conducting a clinical trial using a drug containing the sleep hormone melatonin, which it is hoped will reduce the symptoms associated with the illness.
The research team is running the Melatonin in Alzheimer's Disease Project, thought to be the first of its kind in the world, is hoping to recruit 50 patients to take part in the study during a six-month period. Any patient who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and is currently receiving treatment could be eligible to take part in the trial. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease but other conditions that affect the brain can also cause it.
Dr Gordon Crawford, of CPS Research, said, “Dementia is a shattering condition for patients, their families and friends. By reducing the symptoms of the illness, it is hoped that both patients and their carers can enjoy a better quality of life and manage the condition more effectivel. In our groundwork for this project we investigated a slow-release version of the natural compound melatonin. Our findings suggested that the participants functioned better during the day - possibly due to a better quality sleep pattern.”

He continued, “Melatonin does not currently exist as a treatment for dementia but is registered in Europe and the UK for use with elderly patients with sleeping difficulties. It has proven to be remarkably safe and virtually free from side effects. We are exploring whether its use as an add-on treatment for dementia could transform the lives of patients and their carer. With the help of volunteers from Scotland we aim to establish whether adding melatonin to current treatments could provide a major advance in dementia management.”
The move comes after author Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2007, made a plea for more research into treatments for dementia. In Scotland 80,000 are currently living with dementia, and according to Alzheimer Scotland this figures is set to double in the next 25 years.
The charity's spokeswoman, Kirsty Jardine, said, “Dementia is affecting many people now and it is an illness that is increasing, mostly as a result of our aging population…There is an urgency to find treatments and a cure, not just from a human rights point of view, but because we don't know to what extent our health and social care systems will be able to cope.


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