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Cannabis-based drug trial targets care home residents with dementia

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Care home residents living with dementia will be recruited to take part in a landmark trial of a cannabis-based medicine for the treatment of agitation.

Alzheimer’s Research UK has committed to nearly £300,000 to fund the phase II clinical trial at King’s College London.

The organisation says the new trial is significant as there have been “no new dementia treatments in over 15 years”.

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The phase II trial will investigate whether it’s feasible to treat agitation in people living with dementia using Sativex, which is currently licenced in the UK to treat muscle stiffness in people with multiple sclerosis.

Around half of the 850,000 people living with dementia will experience symptoms of agitation or aggression. This can often be one of the most challenging aspects of the illness, both for the person with dementia and those caring for them.

Old Age Psychiatrist, Professor Dag Aarsland, the lead researcher on the trial, said: “While people most often associate Alzheimer’s disease with memory problems, this is just one aspect of a complex condition that can affect people in different ways. Many people with Alzheimer’s can become agitated or aggressive, and this can pose difficulties for the person with the condition and those closest to them.”

The study team will recruit volunteers with Alzheimer’s disease between 55 and 90 years old who are living in care homes.

“One of the key questions the trial will answer is whether it is practical to give someone with dementia a drug through a mouth spray when they may be exhibiting severe symptoms of agitation and aggression. We will also get some indication of whether Sativex is effective at reducing symptoms, although larger studies will be needed to get firm evidence of this,” added Professor Aarsland.

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “With no new dementia treatments in over 15 years, it is vital that we test a wide range of approaches to find effective ways to help people living with the condition.

“While a major focus for dementia research is to develop drugs that slow or stop the progression of the physical diseases that cause dementia, what really matters is that a medicine benefits people’s day-to-day lives.

“The trial opens the door to a treatment that may help to alleviate an extremely challenging set of symptoms, and Alzheimer’s Research UK is extremely grateful to our supporters for making this important work possible.”

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Sarah Clarke

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