By Sonya Bernard-Hollins, publisher
An increase in affordable health care, focus on healthy eating and exercise is leading to a longer lifespan for people in the 21st century. With that, Dr. Nadeem Mirza says we are seeing an increase in cases of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Dr. Mirza of Bronson LakeView Hospital in Paw Paw, Michigan, is part of a national double-blind study with a drug designed to protect against neuron loss in the brain; therefore slowing the progression of the disease.
The drug, T-817MA, is the focus of the NOBLE 14-month study that will include 450 people with mild-to-moderate AD across the country. According to information about the NOBLE study on www.noblestudy.org, the drug is a neuroprotectant agent designed to protect against neuron loss. Neuroprotectants are used for many central nervous system disorders including stroke and Parkinson’s disease.
The expertise of Dr. Mirza, who has been part of the study since in began in 2014 has allowed Bronson to be one of 50 sites across the country selected to take part in this research. Many who qualify to participate are already being treated with donepezil (Aricept).
Today in the U.S., more than five million people are living with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease (AD). According to a recent study by the Alzheimer’s Association, of those five million people living with mild-to-moderate AD, over 150,000 live in the state of Michigan. However, no new drug has been approved by the U.S. FDA for the treatment of AD since 2003.
Dr. Mirza is a psychiatrist by training and has a background which includes work at John Hopkins Hospital. He is Geriatric of the Memory Clinic at Bronson which specializes in the diagnosis and tracking of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. So far there are more than a dozen area residents participating in the study with openings for more. The most important factor in participating in the study is that patients have someone in their lives who can provide information on their daily behaviors; particularly as it relates to memory. This “study partner” would also be on hand at doctor visits to share information that may be vital to the study.
“This study partner would be able to monitor information that patients may not be able to share themselves,” said Mirza who has participated in similar studies in the past.
Because the study is classified as double-blind, Dr. Mirza says even he does not know who is gets the drug and who doesn’t. He and other physicians will send in their data to be analyzed together. As people live longer and more are being afflicted with the disease, Dr. Mirza said before finding a cure, they must first find medication that will slow or treat the symptoms, not the underlying problem.
“We are living longer, so age is the number-one risk factor,” he said. “Other things increase the risk for a person to be diagnosed with AD, such as those with a history of heart disease or stroke. It is being seen most common in African American women because of their increased diagnosis with heart disease and diabetes. Those who suffer from depression later in life and those whose has a family history of high blood pressure and weight issues also are at risk—it doesn’t mean those people WILL be diagnosed with AD, it just means those who have been diagnosed have many of those health issues.”
Dr. Mirza said that there may be ways people can stay below the AD radar.
“Consider the brain as a muscle. When you go to gym and exercise, you can build more muscles and tone what you have. When you exercise the brain, even though you don’t build more brain, you cam maintain what you have through mental exercise, walking, and good health practices.”
He said those who may be forgetting things on an ongoing basis should see a doctor early. The earlier a diagnosis can be provided, the better chance of obtaining medication that may slow the process. He said that there are various types of dementia with Alzheimer’s being the most common. He said if 100 people have dementia, 60% of them will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
One vital piece of advice he has for those young and old is: “What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.”
Dr. Mirza is still accepting patients into the area program. To participate in the 52-week study participants should be:
*Women and men with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease who:
* Aged 55-85 years old,
* Have been receiving certain Alzheimer’s disease medications for at least 6 months,
* Lving in the community (not in a nursing home),
* Have a study partner (family, friend or associate) who has at least 10 hours of contact per week, who can attend study visits, and
* Weigh no more than 220 pounds.
The NOBLE study is a Phase-2 multi-center, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study. that will explore the potential of the investigational drug T-817MA. For more information visit: www.noblestudy.org.