OSAKA - Researchers have found that a drug used in the prevention of strokes, cilostazol, is effective in slowing the progression of mild dementia, according to a study published Thursday in the U.S. online science journal Plos One.
The team including Masafumi Ihara, chief physician at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center, said that the drug seems to improve the excretion of waste products in the brain that cause dementia.
Four million people in Japan are believed to have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and a half of them are set to develop dementia-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease within five years, according to one estimate.
The study was based on an analysis of the medical records of Alzheimer’s patients who were given the drug and those who were not administered it.
The team plans to start clinical research with MCI patients this fall with Mie University, Kyoto University and Kobe University.
Dementia patients often develop vascular diseases, and the team has noted that cilostazol enlarges the blood vessels to improve blood flow in the brain.
The team carried out a survey to check whether taking cilostazol in addition to dementia medications made any difference in the decline of cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s patients, assigning scores on a 30-point scale.
Among those who can barely manage a social life, 36 people who were not taking cilostazol saw their scores fall by an average of 2.2 points over a year, compared with a 0.5 drop in 34 people who were taking the medicine. Improvements were even reported in some areas, but no effect was seen in patients with advanced conditions, the study said.
The team has discovered that cilostazol promotes excretion of waste products in the brain in mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other participants in the latest study include a research institute at the Kobe-based Foundation for Biomedical Research and Innovation.