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December 14th, 2009
Could Healthy People take Alzheimer’s Medication to Become Smarter?

If a healthy person were to take a sick person’s medication, would this make the healthy person… super healthy? Take Ritalin for example, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but also adapted to help normal students study harder while cramming for exams.

There are now several new online prescription drugs that are for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, a neurological disease that eventually leads to memory loss, language deterioration, and confusion. This disease affects around 4.5 million Americans and will keep striking more. However, many people are now wondering if taking drugs meant for Alzheimer’s will make people smarter.

“In theory, it’s possible” says Marvin Hausman, MD and CEO of Axonyx Inc. His company has developed the Alzheimer’s drug Phenserine which is currently clinical trials in Europe.

These medications, Phenserine, Aricept and Exelon, are effective by increasing the level of acetylocholine in the body. This neurotransmitter is a chemical that creates communication between nerve cells in the brain. Many brain cells die in patients with Alzheimer’s, so the medication works to make the most out of the remaining cells by filling the brain with acetylcholine.

There are no proven results as to whether any Alzheimer’s drugs can improve a healthy person’s brain function. However, a small study by Stanford University researchers noticed that middle-aged pilots given Aricept had more success on their flight simulation tests rather than those given a placebo.

Axonyx and Hausman say that there is no interest in Phenserine to be developed as a “smart drug” for healthy people. “I don’t know if the FDA would ever allow a normal memory drug,” he adds.

The pending approval of Phenserine includes the future study into using the drug for treatment for mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Patients with MCI suffer from some memory loss, and sometimes develop Alzheimer’s disease.

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