In the wake of research suggesting a skin-cancer drug may have benefits in treating Alzheimer's disease, physicians and advocacy groups are getting a flurry of calls from patients seeking to use the drug off-label.
The clamor underscores how urgently patients want solutions to the rising tide of Alzheimer's. But experts caution that more research is needed to determine whether the drug, bexarotene, is effective in humans at all, not to mention what the dosage should be.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, was conducted in mice, and the road to an effective Alzheimer's treatment is littered with failures that looked promising early on in animals.
"The Alzheimer's community is very desperate for anything that shows any sign of hope or promise," said Eric Hall, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, a New York-based advocacy organization that started to field calls from consumers as soon as the paper was published.
"To patients and families who are this motivated, the idea of an off-label pill is not a major leap," he said. The cost would be $1,200 or more a month and unlikely to be covered by insurance, Dr. Gandy said.
Bexarotene, marketed by Japan-based Eisai Co. as Targretin, is approved for use in a particular form of skin cancer. Once a drug is on the market, physicians are free to prescribe it for other conditions, though drug companies can't promote such off-label uses.
- Bexarotene (Brand name: Targretin)
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