Alzheimer’s drug trial shows promise

Participants in an international trial investigating a drug to slow down cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease have started to show significant improvements, the principal investigator tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

Rosie Craven enjoying reading her latest book

Participants in an international trial investigating a drug to slow down cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease have started to show significant improvements, the principal investigator tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

The trial, which is in its third phase, aims to demonstrate that the drug Anavex 2-73 benefits people with Alzheimer’s disease (read our story here).

Participants are randomly assigned either the drug or a placebo to assess effectiveness.

While the findings are only anecdotal at this stage, improvements have been noticed among individuals involved, said principal investigator Associate Professor Stephen Macfarlane.

“We’ve certainly seen individual patients, who both seem to be getting side effects from the drugs and who have shown significant improvements,” Professor Macfarlane told AAA.

“The findings we’ve got can only be anecdotal because it’s a double-blind trial, which means at the moment, we don’t know who’s taking the actual drug and who’s taking the placebo,” said Professor Macfarlane, head of clinical services at HammondCare.

Stephen Macfarlane

Participants getting side effects, such as dizziness, suggest improvements from the drug, he said.

“The fact that they’re getting side effects and they were expected side effects based on what we know about the drug, does suggest that the people who are showing the improvements are on the active drug,” Professor Macfarlane said.

“For individual patients who have received benefits, the impact for them has been potentially life changing, such as resuming activities they previously had given away, more interest in life, more engagement and better able to converse,” he said.

For example, trial particpant Rosie Craven had lost confidence and enjoyment in many areas of life before she joined phase three of the study.

“Rosie had enjoyed watching movies and reading but as Alzheimer’s advanced, she gave up reading and found it hard to engage with movies, and often falling asleep. Now after being on the trial, Rosie is reading again and loves watching movies and discussing them afterwards.

“She was losing the capacity to write, had been anxious about leaving home for a walk, and stopped using her phone to communicate with friends and family. Now she is once again confidently going for walks, using her phone and writing greetings on cards,” she said.

Trial still recruiting

The trial, which has been running for a year, is operating across 16 sites across Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, Professor Macfarlane said.

The trial is expected to open new sites in Europe and North America in the coming months, he said.

The trial has recruited around 250 of its 450 target since it commenced, Professor Macfarlane said.

“It might not sound dramatic. Most sites for most Alzheimer’s studies will be lucky to recruit eight patients per site, so across 16 sites, to have 250 in a year is really quite remarkable,” Professor Macfarlane said.

The trial is still seeking to recruit about 225 people by the end of the year ahead of its scheduled completion in 2021, he said.

People living with very early and early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in Sydney and Melbourne and are up to the age of 85 interested in participating in the study can email

Find out more about the trial and register interest at other trial sites here.

Comment below to have your say on this story

Subscribe to Australian Ageing Agenda magazine and sign up to the AAA newsletter

Tags: alzheimers, associate professor stephen macfarlane, dementia, drug, hammondcare, medications, news-1, slider,

4 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s drug trial shows promise

  1. We live near Denver, CO. USA
    patient female 83 had an MMSE score of 22 in Feb 2018. Very anxious to enroll in your study when activated in the USA.

  2. Hi Sandy!

    I live in Chicago my mother is now suffering from dementia.

    Do you have any idea when the Anavex drug may be available? I understand this trial has been going on for screw years now.

    Is there any chance that Australia will approve this treatment on their own, or do they have to wait for US FDA approval first??

    Thank you.

  3. Hi Cary,

    Thanks for the comment. At this stage there are no updates about when Anavex will be available or whether Australia will approve it first, but you can find out more information here.

  4. Hi Sandy
    Did you know Dr MacFarlane is presenting results at CTAD in a few weeks?
    I am very excited for many reasons.
    Well written article
    Thank You

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *