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Has a Chinese Company Found a Cure for Alzheimer’s?

Drug companies have long been thwarted in developing a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Now a Chinese firm is taking a different approach to the problem.
Has a Chinese Company Found a Cure for Alzheimer’s?
Senior woman with her home caregiver isolated on white background

The Chinese equivalent of the FDA, the National Medical Products Administration, has just approved a natural product to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Even the company, Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals, doesn’t claim the compound will prove to be a cure for Alzheimer’s. However, the US FDA has not approved any drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease since 2003.

What Is the Evidence for a Possible Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Green Valley Pharmaceuticals derived their new drug, Oligomannate, from seaweed. The company has conducted research in mice that demonstrated the compound can alter the gut microbiome (Cell Research, Sept. 6, 2019). Apparently, this shift is enough to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system.

No one knows whether Oligomannate affects the human microbiome in the same way. However, recent reviews of scientific studies suggest a strong link between the microbiota and neuroinflammation (Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, Oct. 18, 2019). People with Alzheimer’s disease often have disrupted intestinal microbiota. The authors suggest that this may offer a new target for treating the condition.

The Clinical Trial for Oligomannate:

The Chinese NMPA granted conditional approval for Oligomannate based on a phase 3 clinical trial of more than 800 individuals. After a month, the people receiving the drug had significantly better scores on one standardized cognitive test than those on placebo. This advantage apparently held up for the rest of the time the trial lasted, about eight months. The company is expected to conduct larger, longer-lasting studies to change the conditional approval into ordinary approval.

Will Oligomannate Be Used World-Wide?

Some observers are skeptical. Most national drug regulators, including the FDA, require significant improvement from more than one cognitive test. In addition, they want to see results for more than nine months. Fortunately, the company is planning to recruit volunteers for a study in Europe, the US and elsewhere in Asia. Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals will use this research to demonstrate whether the drug is safe and effective over the long term. If it is successful, perhaps we can hope that following through on such innovative research may some day yield a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

In the meantime, you may be interested in learning about a multifaceted approach to preventing dementia. You might be able to put some components into practice right away. To learn more, listen to Show 1092: How You Can Overcome Alzheimer Disease, or Show 994: Learn How One Doctor Is Reversing Alzheimer’s. We discuss another approach in Show 1132: Are Infections to Blame for Alzheimer Disease?

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Wang X et al, "Sodium oligomannate therapeutically remodels gut microbiota and suppresses gut bacterial amino acids-shaped neuroinflammation to inhibit Alzheimer’s disease progression." Cell Research, Sept. 6, 2019. DOI: 10.1038/s41422-019-0216-x
  • Cerovic M et al, "Neuroinflammation and the gut microbiota: Possible alternative therapeutic targets to counteract Alzheimer's disease?" Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, Oct. 18, 2019. DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2019.00284
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