A health ministry research group has come out with the nation’s first medical guidelines on Alzheimer’s disease, recommending the government allow pharmaceutical firms to introduce two foreign-made drugs in Japan as soon as possible, researchers said Wednesday.
Because there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, finding effective ways to delay dementia is regarded as a key element of treatment.
The guidelines, which the group compiled after studying about 600 research papers, stress the importance of having drug treatment for the disease, the researchers said.
They are urging early introduction of two drugs not yet approved in Japan — Reminyl (galantamine hydrobromide) made by Belgium-based Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V. and Britain-based Shire Pharmaceuticals Group PLC, and Exelon (rivastigimine tartrate) developed by Switzerland-based Novartis AG.
“To broaden medical options, it is preferable for the two drugs to be approved,” said group member Akira Homma, a senior researcher at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology.
“Not many people know about the effectiveness of the drugs,” Homma said. “I hope the guidelines will serve as a reference.”
The only drug that has been approved in Japan for Alzheimer’s is Aricept (donepezil hydrochloride), made by Japan’s Eisai Co. The guidelines say Aricept is “very effective,” the researchers said.
Japanese authorities have started to conduct clinical testing on Reminyl.
The guidelines also touch on medical treatments using no drugs, including music therapy, saying, “It is not harmful and can be recommended.”
But it also says nonpharmacologic therapeutic measures usually lack scientific evidence and need further study.
Alzheimer’s is a form of progressive mental deterioration due to degeneration of the central nervous system, occurring in middle or old age. More than 1 million Japanese are believed to suffer from the debilitating disease.