ARBs might prevent, treat Alzheimer's

Help for Alzheimer's may already be in thousands of medicine cabinets. Researchers found that patients taking blood pressure drugs called agiotensin receptor blockers, or ARBs, were 35 percent to 40 percent less likely to develop the degenerative brain disease or other forms of dementia. Also, people who already had Alzheimer's and used the drugs were up to 45 percent less likely to develop delirium, to be admitted to nursing homes, or to die. Patients who'd had strokes benefited most.

Scientists theorize that the drugs might help prevent nerve cell injury that stems from blood-vessel damage, or to promote nerve recovery after blood-vessel damage. But just any old blood pressure or cardiovascular drug wouldn't do; the ARBs were more effective than other types of meds, the researchers found.

Just who makes these meds? Basically a roll call of Big Pharma: Novartis has Diovan, Merck has Cozaar, Boehringer Ingelheim has Micardis, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis have Avapro, Kos has Teveten, and AstraZeneca has Atacand. Expect to see more research on this, considering the huge impact Alzheimer's is expected to have as the U.S. population ages.

- see the Washington Post story