The drug, Circadin, containing the sleep hormone melatonin is being studied in a clinical trial for its ability to reduce the symptoms of dementia.
CPS Research, a medical research company in Glasgow, is responsible for the study that needs 50 volunteers being treated for Alzheimer's, over a period of six months. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease and so patients suffering from the disorder can become subjects for the study.
The Melatonin in Alzheimer's Disease Project is the first study made on the positive effects of melatonin on the progression of the disease. Earlier findings had proved that dementia affected the production of melatonin, and patients suffered from disturbed sleep patterns, and interrupted sleep in the nights. In this study, researchers discovered that a slow-release version of the natural compound melatonin helped sufferers to sleep better and function better in the day.
Dr Gordon Crawford, of CPS Research remarks, "It has proven to be remarkably safe and virtually free from side effects. We are exploring whether its use as an add-on treatment for dementia could transform the lives of patients and their carers. With the help of volunteers from Scotland we aim to establish whether adding melatonin to current treatments could provide a major advance in dementia management.""
The study was taken up when writer, Sir Terry Pratchett who had been told that he had the early beginnings of the disease, had pleaded for more research to be done. Speaking from his experience he says, "Alzheimer's is a large number of small tragedies usually played out behind closed doors, so in spite of the numbers living with it, the world still doesn't take much notice."