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Our doctor says my wife is probably.

Q Our doctor says my wife is probably in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Should we enroll her in a clinical trial so she can take advantage of the latest in research?

A Clinical trials are designed to find out whether treatments are safe and effective for patients and, in some cases, whether novel treatments are better than standard therapies. Clinical trials also offer participants the chance to help further knowledge about disease treatments, and to benefit from expert medical care and access to drugs and treatment strategies that may not yet be available to the public.


However, participation in an Alzheimer's disease (AD) research trial requires a significant commitment, as it can be time-consuming because of required tests and medical assessments. Other potential drawbacks should be considered as well. When a new treatment is being studied, the trial may entail unknown risks from side effects. Many trials involve random assignment to groups receiving either active medication (the medication being tested) or an inactive substance called a placebo. Participants in trials know ahead of time if there is a chance of being assigned to a group receiving placebo, but they do not know or choose which group they are in during the trial. Nevertheless, participation in a clinical trial can help your wife receive state-of-the-art medical care, increase the likelihood that she can take advantage of new drugs or treatments as they become available, and acquaint your family with available resources.

At least 90 AD drugs are being investigated and more than 175 AD clinical trials and studies in the U.S. are enrolling participants, according to the National Institutes of Health. To find out whether your wife qualifies for a trial, you might consider contacting the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (log onto's or call 1-800-438-4380 to find your local branch) or going to to find out about clinical trials that are recruiting volunteers.

Editor-in-Chief Maurizio Fava, MD

Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry Massachusetts General Hospital Director, Depression Clinical and Research Program Professor of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School

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Title Annotation:ASK THE DOCTOR
Author:Fava, Maurizio
Publication:Mind, Mood & Memory
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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