In brief: Alzheimer’s drug may help if used earlier

An experimental drug that failed to stop mental decline in Alzheimer’s patients also signaled a potential benefit that suggests it might help if given earlier, fuller results of two major studies show.

Some patients on the drug had stable levels of brain plaque and less evidence of nerve damage compared to others who were given a dummy treatment, researchers reported Tuesday.

The drug is called bapineuzumab, made by Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson. The new results suggest it might work if given sooner, before so much damage and memory loss have occurred that it might not be possible to reverse, experts say.

“We’re very disappointed that we were not able to come up with a treatment to provide to our dementia patients in the near term,” said Dr. Reisa Sperling, director of the Alzheimer’s center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and leader of one of the studies.

But brain imaging and spinal fluid tests are “very encouraging” and suggest the drug was “doing something to the biology of the disease.”

“We’ve got a path forward” now to test it in people with mild mental impairment or those who show plaque on brain imaging but have not yet developed symptoms of dementia, Sperling said.

Ex-prof pleads guilty in faculty killings

Birmingham, Ala. – A former biology professor accused of pulling a gun from her purse and opening fire at a faculty meeting pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing three colleagues and wounding three others at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2010.

Amy Bishop, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of capital murder involving two or more people and three counts of attempted murder during a hearing in Huntsville. She had earlier pleaded not guilty, and her lawyers said she planned to use an insanity defense.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of life without parole for the capital charge, and three life sentences for the attempted murder charges. Sentencing will follow a brief trial on Sept. 24 before Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann.

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