Several new treatments for Alzheimer's disease are being investigated. Most focus on dissolving or preventing the buildup of plaques and tangles in the brain. Another new exciting line of research is exploring the use of a medication called etanercept.
Etanercept is typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the joints, surrounding tissues, and sometimes other organs), related types of arthritis, and psoriasis (a chronic skin condition often resulting in a thickening of the skin, redness, and scaling). This medication, usually injected subcutaneously (i.e., with a shot directly under the skin) works by blocking the action of a substance the body makes called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Higher levels of TNF have been associated with Alzheimer's Disease.
Researchers recently reported that administering etanercept with a injection directly into the spinal column appeared to reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer's within minutes in a very small, select group of individuals. Research like this is very encouraging, but it is important to remember that all medications must go through several successful clinical trials, where the treatment is shown to consistently work and poses minimal side effects to humans, before it can be approved by the FDA for use in the general public.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's Disease. The average amount of time a person with Alzheimer's will live is eight years after the onset of symptoms. However, individuals with Alzheimer's have been known to live anywhere between 3 and 20 years after the first signs of AD emerge. The length of time people will live after diagnosis is highly dependent on their age as well as the type and severity of their other medical conditions.
People with Alzheimer's Disease often die of a medical complication such as pneumonia or the flu. If this does not occur, AD is fatal, and the person will die when all bodily systems fail because of the disease.