ARBs like Diovan may prevent, treat Alzheimer's

Here's a new indication lots of drugmakers would like: Researchers have found that blood pressure meds sold by AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis, Merck and others might also cut the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Published in the British Medical Journal, the findings also suggest that the drugs slow progression of the disease.

The drugs in question are angiotensin receptor blockers, namely Merck's Cozaar, Sanofi-Aventis' Avapro, Boehringer Ingelheim's Micardis, Novartis' Diovan, AstraZeneca's Atacand, Daiichi Sankyo's Benicar, and Solvay Pharmaceuticals' Teveten. Researchers analyzed medical records of some 800,000 U.S. veterans, finding that those using these drugs were up to 24 percent less likely to develop dementia than those using other drugs were. Patients already diagnosed with Alzheimer's were half as likely to be admitted to nursing homes and were 17 percent less likely to die.

"For those who already have dementia, use of ARBs might delay deterioration of brain function and keep patients out of nursing homes," lead author Benjamin Wolozin tells Bloomberg. He adds that ARBs appear to be "more effective than other blood pressure and cardiovascular medications for preventing Alzheimer's disease or dementia."

If a drugmaker were to confirm the findings in a clinical trial--and subsequently persuade FDA to broaden use of its drug--the potential market would be huge. As Bloomberg notes, some 30 million people worldwide have dementia, and currently available treatments leave much to be desired. Plenty of companies are racing to develop new drugs to forestall and/or treat Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. If ARBs do this already, they'd be one step ahead in the fight for approval.

- read the Bloomberg piece