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ADHD treatment may be effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease

Published on 06/07/22 at 08:42am

Clinical trials of noradrenergic drugs, which include antidepressants and medicines to treat high blood pressure and ADHD are now warranted, say researchers, who believe that there is “good evidence” these drugs may successfully treat key aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers cited pooled data analysis of the available research, published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Noradrenergic drugs target the neurotransmitter, noradrenaline, also called norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter is released by a network of specialised noradrenergic neurons, critical for arousal and many cognitive processes such as attention, learning, memory, readiness for action, and suppression of inappropriate behaviours.

“Repurposing of established noradrenergic drugs is most likely to offer effective treatment in Alzheimer’s disease for general cognition and apathy,” the scientists said, adding, “There is a strong rationale for further, targeted clinical trials of noradrenergic treatments in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Noradrenergic disruption occurs early in Alzheimer’s disease, contributing to the cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms characteristic of the condition. This suggests that the noradrenergic system is a strong potential target for drug treatment.

Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Alzheimer’s is a very complex disease. There are currently 143 drugs in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s, and while some counteract symptoms most target the various biological processes that could be driving the disease.

“This well-conducted meta-analysis highlights the potential of noradrenergic drugs to treat some aspects of Alzheimer’s, but the evidence in the trials reviewed here varies in quality and it’s hard to directly compare results from each study because the methods used are not consistent. We can’t be sure yet what effect these drugs could have on a person’s day-to-day life, and we don’t know whether any benefits they provide would outweigh the risks.

“While there are limitations to the evidence reviewed in this paper, it highlights a need for well-conducted clinical trials to determine whether drugs that already treat conditions like ADHD could be safe and beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s. Research like this will help keep people connected to their families, their worlds and themselves for longer.”

Ana Ovey

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