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Parents of Down’s kids following US researcher’s ‘memory drug’

Despite the still embryonic stages of the drug, a number of parents from all over the world – including Malta – have contacted doctor asking whether they should give their children the drug.

Karl Stagno-Navarra
5 November 2012, 12:00am
A number of Maltese parents of children affected by Down Syndrome, have reportedly been in contact with Alberto Costa, a Brazilian-born associate professor of medicine and neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, who has recently discovered a drug might help the memory of people with the condition.

The breakthrough drug called 'memantine' has so far produced what has been described as "cautiously encouraging results".

Despite the still embryonic stages of the drug, a number of parents from all over the world - including Malta - have contacted Costa asking whether they should give their children the drug.

He says no. It's still an experimental drug whose long-term effects are unknown. "Hence, please don't try it," he tells them.

During Costa's clinical experiment, young men and women with Down Syndrome were administered for 16 weeks with memantine, which is normally used by Alzheimer patients to improve their memory.

The subjects showed statistically significant improvements in one of five key memory tests compared with others who took placebos.

Its outcome was not substantial, but enough to draw attention from the Down Syndrome community around the world, following the publication of a lengthy profile of Costa in The New York Times, who is now searching for funds in order for him to broaden his research.

Michelle Sie Whitten, executive director of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, which has helped fund Costa's research for the past six years, said Costa made a crucial link between Alzheimer's and Down syndrome that will affect future research.

"No one, including Alberto, is jumping up and down" over the results of the clinical trial, she said, "but it showed us much more information than we had before".