A groundbreaking new trial at Queen's University Belfast is investigating if a drug for high blood pressure – costing 4p per day – could become the first treatment for one of the most common forms of dementia.
Announcing the start of the £2.25m clinical trial yesterday, the Alzheimer's Society and the British Heart Foundation said they are hoping it could pave the way for an effective, affordable treatment within a decade.
The major two-year trial, run by experts at the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen's, is funded by the two charities. It will explore the effect an existing blood pressure drug called amlodipine has on people with vascular dementia.
The condition is caused by problems with the blood supply to the brain and affects more than 18,000 people in Northern Ireland and 150,000 in the UK.
The researchers, led by Professor Peter Passmore, hope to show that 10mg a day of the drug significantly improves memory and cognitive health.
As amlodipine is already licensed and safe, the treatment – which costs the NHS just £1.07 a month – could be in use as a treatment within five to 10 years. Experts at the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen's will recruit nearly 600 people for the trial.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "It's scandalous that there are no effective treatments for vascular dementia and very few new treatments under investigation. This groundbreaking trial could be the best hope we have to get an effective treatment in use in the next decade."
One in three people over 65 will develop dementia.
There are estimated to be 18,862 people with dementia in Northern Ireland, and this is set to rise to 250,000 by 2021.
Alzheimer's Society research shows that 800,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer's disease. In less than 100 years, 1m people will be living with dementia.