The search for effective therapies to treat Alzheimer’s disease – for which there currently exists no cure or medication to delay its progression – has been highlighted as a priority by the World Health Organization.
Along with the many efforts being undertaken by the scientific community, Cuba has also been working to develop a more effective Alzheimer’s treatment, as part of a strategy outlined within the Ministry of Public Health’s National Plan for Dementia, according to Dr. Jorge J. Llibre Guerra MSci from the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery’s (INN) Cognitive and Behavioral Disorders Department, who spoke with Granma International.
Particularly beneficial in this sense was the recently held scientific-methodological workshop, which took place in Havana’s Riviera Hotel. The event aimed to discuss clinical trials of NeuroEpo for Alzheimer’s (AD) patients, set to begin pending approval from the Center for the Control of Medicines, and Medical equipment and Devices (CECMED), explained Leslie Pérez Ruiz, MSc researcher at the Molecular Immunology Center (CIM).
According to Dr. Llibre Guerra, as part of the trials – conducted by the CIM and INN’s Cognitive Disorders department - patients displaying early signs of AD will be administered NeuroEpo, a CIM developed product which has demonstrated neuro-protector qualities in experimental phases.
Also contributing to such efforts will be the Cognitive Disorders department in the province of Artemisa where, together with the INN, the trials will take place.
“This will be the first time the treatment has been used with people and we’ll have to wait for the results. The medication doesn’t prevent or cure Alzheimer’s, however the pre-clinical results are encouraging insomuch as it could help to change the course of the disease, that is to say, it could delay its progression. What we want to do is slow down the degenerative process, and improve patients’ quality of life, and that of their families,” stated Pérez Ruiz.
Dr. Llibre Guerra noted that Alzheimer’s is the most common neurodegenerative disease affecting people over 60 years of age, as well as the sixth cause of death among this sector of the population in the country. It is also the disease with the most severe economic, social, and health impact, and represents the leading-cause of disability and poor health in the country.
“AD is caused by extracellular plaque deposits of the β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) in our brains. NeuroEpo has not been proven to eliminate these deposits, however based on its neuro-protective properties we hope that it will be able to delay their formation, and as such slow down the progression of the disease and the severity of its clinical manifestations. Numerous national and international experts have noted that delaying the disease would significantly reduce the number of people suffering from AD, as well as the economic and social costs associated with the condition,” noted the specialist.
For his part, Dr. Juan de Jesús Llibre Rodríguez, President of the Cuban Alzheimer’s Association, noted to GI that approximately 10.2 of every 100 people aged 65 and over suffer from some form of dementia on the island - Alzheimer's being the most common.
According to figures, there are currently some 160,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s in Cuba, a number which is expected to more than double by 2040, at which point there will be an estimated 300,000 people with dementia, or 2.7% of the Cuban population, if an effective cure is not found.
Around 21 of every 1,000 people are diagnosed with dementia every year on the island, a similar rate to that seen in Europe and North America. It is also one of the highest rates in Latin America, due primarily to the high life expectancy in Cuba, stated the expert.
With around 300 clinical trials linked to Alzheimer treatments currently underway worldwide, Cuba is taking a first step and launching its very own. All that’s left is to wait for the results.