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Antihypertensive Drug Carvedilol Improves Alzheimer's Symptoms


The antihypertensive drug carvedilol may have a second life as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease as it has shown to improve the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Two studies show that carvedilol may improve memory functions and reduce the degenerative brain features of the disease.

This finding represents the first time that carvedilol, which is used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, has properties that can significantly reduce the brain-damaging impact of Alzheimer’s disease. Carvedilol is a beta-blocker that works by relaxing blood vessels and slowing heart rate, which in turn improves blood flow and decreases blood pressure.

In one of the studies, researchers found that carvedilol significantly reduced brain and memory degeneration typical of Alzheimer’s disease in mice that had been genetically modified to develop this form of dementia. The benefits were achieved without causing a drop in blood pressure.

In the other study, the researchers evaluated how mice learned new tasks and information and how they recalled past information chemically stored in the brain. They conducted behavioral and learning tests on mice that were treated with carvedilol and those that did not. Mice that had been treated with carvedilol took significantly less time to remember tasks than the untreated mice.

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According to Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD, Saunders Family Professor of Neurology and director of the Center of Excellence for Novel Approaches to Neurotherapeutics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the results of these studies “suggest for the first time that certain antihypertensive drugs already available to the public may independently influence memory functions while reducing degenerative pathological features of the Alzheimer’s disease brain.”

Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.3 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation latest report, and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. It is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all cases, and takes a tremendous physical, emotional, and financial toll on the patients and their families.

Despite extensive research and studies on the causes and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, thus far no treatment is available to slow or stop the deterioration of brain cells. Currently there are five drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that temporarily slow worsening of symptoms for about six to 12 months.

Pasinetti, who headed both studies of carvedilol, noted that “ongoing clinical research is in progress to test the benefits of carvedilol, which may prove to be an effective agent in the treatment of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.” Future studies of carvedilol in people with Alzheimer’s disease will hopefully generate positive results.

Alzheimer’s Foundation
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
National Institute of Medicine