A UCLA clinic has reported what some have hailed as the discovery of the decade. It's an injection that can reverse Alzheimer's disease in minutes. The scientists report that 45 out of 50 patients treated showed a response, usually within minutes.

The results were so startling that the researchers released videos of the immediate improvement to prove it. In one case, the patient suddenly recognized his wife after years of non-recognition. Weeks later, the wife affirmed that her husband now makes sense 90% of the time instead of 0% before the treatment.

The treatment involves a new use for an old arthritic drug - etanercept. Its trade name is Enbrel. To treat Alzheimer's, the doctor simply injects the drug into the spinal canal in the neck at the base of the skull. The doctor then tilts the patient so that the drug moves up and into the brain. The doctor administers it weekly until the improvement stabilizes. This usually peaks at about three months. The researchers have followed some of the patients for as long as three years, with no sign of regression.

Etanercept is a powerful inflammation suppressor. That's why it treats arthritis. Its benefit in Alzheimer's sheds new light on the mechanism of and possible treatment of the otherwise progressive disease. Inflammation within the brain might be the underlying cause. Such inflammation could lead to the beta amyloid deposits and degenerative tangles of the nerve endings.

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I get lots of calls about Alzheimer's. This etanercept treatment is highly specialized. It requires a risky and technical injection into the spinal canal high in the neck. It requires a highly trained doctor to do it. I have not been happy with the safety of this drug in arthritis patients. I don't consider it safe at all. Furthermore, I know that it has induced MS like conditions in some users.

However, Alzheimer's disease is an indescribable tragedy. I've always said that there's a place for drugs when used with discretion. This could be one of those times. Indeed, even if there are substantial risks, would it not be worth the chance to restore mental function to an otherwise helpless soul? Even if only temporary? The drug is not likely to treat the actual cause of the inflammation. However, it could light the path to finding it.

Estimates suggest that Alzheimer's will threaten up to 20% of the baby boomer population. Any help is monumental. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's, please ask him about this specialized treatment. He should be able to find a doctor that does the treatment. And stay tuned to these alerts, as I'll have even more Alzheimer's breakthroughs coming in future issues.

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