Health News Review

According to promising early research, treatment with antibodies naturally produced in the body appears to halt the memory-robbing progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Our Review Summary

The story accurately reports that while intravenous immunoglobin therapy (IVIg) has been used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, it is not yet FDA approved for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The story appropriately cites researchers not affiliated with the clinical trials who express caution about off-label use until there is more data on the safety and efficacy of this treatment for Alzheimer’s patients.

The story provides no quantitative evidence from this pilot trial of IVIg therapy in 8 Alzheimer’s patients. We are not told very much about these patients’ cognitive improvement from baseline to the end of the 18-month trial. Additionally, the results described here were presented at a conference and have also not been peer-reviewed in a medical journal. The story does note that larger controlled trials are necessary to further investigate antibody therapy for Alzheimer’s.

Adverse reactions within this small trial are not provided. IVIg is a human blood product that comes from multiple donors, and while it is screened for HIV and Hepatitis B and C, there is still a very small risk of contracting these infections via IVIg therapy. The most common complications of IVIg therapy include headache, skin reactions, nausea and fatigue during and shortly after an infusion. More serious allergic reactions can also occur with IVIg therapy, but the story does not mention any side effects of this treatment.

The story provides the estimated cost of treatment for IVIg therapy for Alzheimer’s patients; however, we are not told if more than one dose is required. The story acknowledges that Baxter International, Inc., a producer of IVIg, is funding early trials of this treatment.

While the story does not overtly engage in disease mongering, it should make clearer to the reader that the connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s is not yet proven. There may be a link between insulin resistance, inflammation and the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes may subdue brain inflammation contributing to Alzheimer’s disease.


Criteria

Satisfactory

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story provides the estimated cost of treatment for IVIg therapy for Alzheimer’s patients: $300 for a single dose. We are not told if more than one dose is required.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story provides no quantitative evidence from the pilot trial of IVIg therapy in 8 Alzeimer’s patients.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There is no mention of the safety of IVIg in Alzheimer’s patients. Adverse reactions within this small trial are not provided. IVIg is a human blood product that comes from multiple donors, and while it is screened for HIV and Hepatitis B and C, there is still a very small risk of contracting these infections via IVIg therapy. The most common complications of IVIg therapy include headache, skin reactions, nausea and fatigue during and shortly after an infusion. More serious allergic reactions can also occur with IVIg therapy.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story describes the results of very small trial of 8 patients; however, the story only provides brief anecdotal evidence of cognitive improvement in these patients. We are not told how much these patients improved from baseline. The results decribed here were presented at a conference and have not been peer-reviewed in a medical journal. The story does note that larger controlled trials are necessary to further investiage antibody therapy for Alzheimer’s.

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story provides prevalence data on Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. While the story does not overtly engage in disease mongering, it should make clearer to the reader that the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s is not yet proven.

Satisfactory

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The story provides sources of information other than the study authors and those affliated with the trial to provide perspective on IVIg therapy to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. The story acknowledges that producers of IVIg therapy are funding early trials.

Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story briefly mentions that there are drugs to help with symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The story also discusses diabetes medications that may help prevent Alzheimer’s in people with type 2 diabetes by reducing brain inflammation.

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story accurately reports that intraveneous immunoglobin therapy (IVIg) is still in clinical trials and not yet approved for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The story appropriately cites a researcher who expresses caution about off-label use until there is more data on the safety and efficacy of this treatment.

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story reports that this treatment to halt– and possibly reverse– the progession of Alzheimer’s disease is new and still in clinical trials. IVIg therapy is not new for treating autoimmune diseases, but it is not FDA approved for use in Alzheimer’s patients.

Not Applicable

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

The story does not appear to rely on a press release and there is coorboration with experts in the field of Alzheimer’s research.

Total Score: 6 of 9 Satisfactory


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