Alzheimers Drug

Reporter: Clare Brady

When it comes to the important moments in his life, Terry Wade is clear. He remembers the desert - the Rats of Tobruk -- and his most vivid memories include the day he married Margo.

But it's what his wife said two days ago, or even two hours ago, that he struggles to remember. "I know faces quite well but names are very hard to remember sometimes. I'm not very good at memory, really very poor short term memory. I often have to refer back to Margot for something -- she's my lifeline", Terry said.

The 89 year old is one of almost 150,000 who struggle with Alzheimer's disease everyday.

A drug called Dimebon is the new hope on an often hazy horizon. It's potential as a breakthrough is as intriguing as its origins.

'From Russia with Love' was the headline in the Wall Street Journal heralding it' potential. "It certainly shows a lot of promise and we are now proceeding with a larger study, a phase 3 study, where over 1000 patients around the world will be recruited. Hopefully the results of the smaller study can be replicated and if so, it will be the next drug available to patients with Alzheimer's disease", said Dr. Henry Doctor Henry Zeimer, who will head the Australian arm of the third phase worldwide tests, which run for a year.

The Russian antihistamine has the unusual side effect of boosting memory and can stop Alzheimer's in its tracks. A small Californian team spotted its secrets and the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, sees worldwide implications. "The results of previous study using Dimebon were very promising and encouraging, so we're hopeful", Dr. Zeimer said.

"Absolutely it's crunch time -- if this study is positive, it will come onto the market and be available for patients", Dr. Zeimer said.

Terry will participate in the drug trials and will be closely monitored by his wife and physicians. Drugs don't always get to this stage three trial phase.

Even the scriptwriters of 'Boston Legal' realised the potential. Comedy or not, leading character Danny Crane wasn't laughing when it came to trying to manipulate trials to avoid getting a placebo.

Like all patients, Anne and Robert Leonard are willing to take a chance that they'll get the drug, not the placebo, in the trial. That Anne often forgets what day it is, is something Bob accepts.

The sprightly 65 year old has taken part in a few trials - taking three tablets daily -- but they hope this one will be the Holy Grail. "I am excited about potential, not only for ourselves, but so many of our friends, so many people in Australia and around the world that suffer from Alzheimer's. It is a debilitating disease not only on the patient but also on the carers", Bob said.

"What I know about is Dimebon is that it may stop the detraction of the brain cells and may even help to regenerate brain cells -- so obversely, we are looking forward to some improvement", Bob said.

Each week in Australia, 900 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The chief of Alzheimer's Australia's, Lynette Moore warns to keep hope under control -- .until we know. "Any research is exciting to us, but we are cautious at Alzheimer's Australia because every drug that is trialled and successful there are another 5 or 10 that are trialled and don't turn out to be successful. But it is important that we do have more research to really try and address this devastating conduction", Lynette said.

For further information:

Phone: 1800 235 526 or visit the website at:

Alzheimer's Australia: National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 or visit the website at: