Alzheimer’s Drug May Benefit Some Patients, New Data Shows
A drug for Alzheimer’s disease may help some patients, a new report finds.
This is an oblique report of an oblique subject: the drug being researched is called astemizole, a long-acting inhibitor that blocks a protein that’s thought to play a central role in the disorder. The drug’s approval came in the early 1990s, when it was sold under the brand name Zyrtec for chronic sinusitis, a common problem.
There are several kinds of chronic sinusitis, some caused by viruses, others caused by allergies and/or allergens. The common treatment is nasal steroids, such as budesonide/formoterol. The problem is that these drugs can make patients’ sinuses swell to the point of interfering with their ability to breathe, which is problematic.
Enter astemizole, a long-acting, antihistamine, corticosteroid, anti-allergy, and anti-asthmatic all-in-one drug that’s used to treat allergies such as hay fever and asthma. Astemizole has no steroidal characteristics, making it unique among antihistamines.
“It blocks the action of histamine on the cells that control the secretion of mucus,” says Dr. John L. Steketee, a pulmonologist at New York Hospital and Cornell University who was not involved in the study. “The histamine is what gets mucus out of the mucus ducts.”
If astemizole becomes a standard treatment for chronic sinusitis, the drug could become a valuable drug for Alzheimer’s patients.
Astemizole was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1986 for the treatment of allergy-related breathing problems in adults. The FDA also approved the drug for the treatment of sinusitis.
“The only reason that the FDA approved [astemizole] for sinusitis was that it was considered a potentially useful agent,” says Dr. Peter J. Kappos, a professor at Yale University in the Department of Neurology.
But what he didn’t know, or hadn’t thought about, is that the same drug could have a use for Alzheimer’s disease. Because astemizole suppresses brain histamine production