OFF LABEL USE OF CANCER DRUG TARGRETIN FOR ALZHEIMER’S QUESTIONED IN MEDICAL JOURNAL

A drug Targretin, approved by the FDA only for use in the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a form of cancer, is being prescribed by some doctors for treatment of Alzheimer’s based on a published study suggesting that it may relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease in mice. However, in an editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Massachusetts General Hospital indicate that doctors should not prescribe Targretin off-label for Alzheimer’s because it has not been proven successful with human models and may cause a variety of health problems. In March 2012, a study published in the medical journal Science suggested that Targretin effectively reduced Alzheimer’s symptoms in three mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. Targretin successfully treated the clearance of beta-amyloid plaque in the brains of mice. It reduced the beta-amyloid more than 50% within just 72 hours and stimulated the rapid reversal of cognitive, social and olfactory functions. The drug attacked the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain directly. Previous drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s have only addressed the symptoms of the disease, such as depression, hallucination and agitation. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that destroys memory and thinking skills. In most cases Alzheimer’s appears after age 60 and is the most common cause of dementia among older people. The brain disease is characterized by amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles and the loss of connections between neurons. Estimates suggest that nearly 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Some doctors argue that patients and caregivers who understand the risks of using an experimental drug should be allowed access. Others feel the data is inconclusive with data from mouse models available. The problem as well is that until the drug is properly tested clinically the dangers are unknown. In addition, the drug is very costly $1,200 to $2,500 per day wholly out of pocket as insurers will not cover expenses for off-label prescriptions.Jeff Newman represents whistleblowers. jeffrey.newman1@gmail.com