Chinese Discovery of Seaweed-Based Drug to Help Alzheimer’s Patients brings both Hope and Skepticism

After nearly two decades since the last treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals, a Chinese medical company, has released a new drug that has been proven successful treatment for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The drug is also said to help improve cognitive function. Oligomannate, which is made from marine brown algae –a type of seaweed– has been claimed to have improved cognitive function in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease compared to the placebo effect in a Phase 3 trial. Benefits have reportedly been seen in patients as early as week four and are persisting throughout the entire 36 weeks of the trial. 

Oligomannate will be on the market in China by the end of the year, due to the conditional approval given by regulators. Although this drug will soon be passed, there is still much research to be done. Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals plans on developing a global Phase 3 trial in the coming years in order to make this discovery available to patients around the world. Other countries, however, are desiring more research for proof of the success of the drug. The director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Carol Routledge, remarked:, “For any potential drug to gain a stamp of approval by regulators in the UK, we’ll need to see larger trials in countries around the world to back up the evidence from China.” Routledge voiced the concern of many Alzheimer’s researchers around the world concerning the scant evidence provided by Green Valley Pharmaceuticals. Although they are aware of the dire necessity for a drug to help patients with Alzheimer’s, Routledge and other Alzheimer’s researchers recognize the necessity for a drug that has concrete evidence to help their patients regain their health. 

Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 3 million Americans each year, targets brain cells and causes them to waste away and die, causing the loss of memory, thinking, behavioral and social skills, as well as the ability to function on one’s own. Previous drugs have been designed to clean up the protein buildup in the brain. Oligomannate has been designed to strengthen the connection between brain and bacterial communities in the gut, known as the microbiome. This new development expands the field of research beyond drugs that target the buildup of protein in the brain. Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer, explained that this “is the first step necessary toward a combination approach to treat Alzheimer’s dementia and all dementia.”

Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals’ next trial, which will be expanded to include sites in the United States, will have access to a more diverse population, which Carillo hopes will also allow researchers to track patients for a longer period of time in order to better comprehend the results of the drug. Phase 3 trials in Alzheimer’s typically last twice as long as the trial conducted by Green Valley in China, which ran for only nine months. Neurologist Dr. Joy Snider at Washington University in St. Louis mentioned, “We’re always excited to have a new potential treatment,” Snider said, “but I certainly would not prescribe it to my patients based on a single study or another country’s approval until we know more about it.”

Hopefully Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceuticals is on the right track to diminish the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in patients. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease with many long-term effects on both the patient and their family members. The development of a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s is long overdue, and scientists are hopeful that these results will provide enough evidence to incorporate Oligomannate in future treatment of the disease. 

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