PLAINS TWP. — Area residents can receive free memory screenings on Tuesday that could, in turn, help determine if they are eligible to participate in a clinical trial of a drug designed to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The memory screenings, as well as the drug trial, are being conducted locally by the NEPA Memory and Alzheimer’s Center, 220 River St., Suite 101, Plains Township. It’s part of a large study being done at about 100 sites worldwide by Roche Pharmaceuticals dubbed the Scarlet Road study.
“We’re trying to prevent the conversion of patients with mild cognitive impairment problems into Alzheimer’s patients,” said Dr. Mario Cornacchione, the center’s program director. “It’s a very safe drug; we haven’t had any serious problems. There’s a lot of monitoring.”
Tuesday’s memory screening neither obliges a person to participate or guarantees a spot in the trial. The screening is a non-invasive memory test, Cornacchione said. If the screening suggest s a person is suitable for the trial, more tests, including checking for “biomarkers” that indicate the potential for Alzheimer’s, must be done.
The center is looking for people who might have “prodromal Alzheimer’s,” according to a press release. “Prodromal” is a medical term for the initial stages of a disease. Participants must be between 50 and 85 years old.
Alzheimer’s is an organic disease. Atrophy of parts of the brain cause progressive and irreversible loss of memory and eventually can impact speech and the ability to walk. Cornacchione said this study is unique because the drug is designed to prevent people susceptible to the disease from getting it.
If a person is eligible for and agrees to participate in the study, he or she would receive a shot about every four weeks for two years and five months, Cornacchione said. Overall, participants will be divided into three groups: One-third will receive a low dose of the drug, another will receive a moderate dose and the third group will receive a placebo.
This means participants will have an better chance at getting the actual drug than in most studies, which usually use a 50/50 drug-to-placebo ratio, Cornacchione said. Participants also will receive modest compensation for their time and traveling expenses to and from the Plains Township center.