Searching For a Light


Those of us practicing in Wills and Estates and all other professionals advising upon inheritance issues are very much aware of the  many issues raised by clients afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. We must be constantly aware of capacity issues when taking instructions and those of us who litigate estate issues often must carefully review medical records and secure expert reports  for committeeship applications; undue influence or capacity challenges to wills and in a host of other situations.

Alzheimer’s is increasingly being diagnosed and affects all of us by reason of our family, friends or colleagues who may be suffering from the ravages of this disease.  It is therefore with interest that I read an article in the August 18 edition of  the  Sydney Morning Herald discussing the results of an experimental treatment which is raising hopes for those with Alzheimer’s.

The story tracks the saga of a Perth man who flew to Boca Raton Florida for treatments at the Institute of Neurological Recovery. As reported by the article, the treatments involve being tilted backwards at 45 degree angle, so that the  immune system drug called etanercept, could be injected between the bones at the top of the spine.  The developer of this treatment, Dr. Ed Tobnick, argues that the combination of gravity and the rich blood vessel supply in the area known as Batson’s plexus, carries the medicine in a very concentrated form, much more concentrated then conventional modes of drug delivery.

The patient and his spouse attest to significant benefits, but like many treatments which are heralded by those desperate for a cure, there is a lack of scientifically proven results from researchers other then Tobinick.  However Dr. Tobnick is a medical practioner well credentialled and recently published his results in the journal Current Alzheimer Research.

Ian Clark from the Research School of Biology at the Australian National University was quoted as confirming that Dr. Tobinick “was doing exactly the right thing. He’s worked out a way to get the drug in that’s novel and perfectly legitimate- it’s not remotely a crackpot thing to do.”

Dr. Tobinick was cited as welcoming outside research but believes that the pharmaceutical companies that are major funders of research simply prefer the easier mode of delivery of drugs, intravenously, subcutaneously or orally. “Even epidural is a more standard method of delivery. But none of those have the same effect” according to Dr. Tobinick.

Others disagree  with Dr. Tobinick’s critique of the drug companies. Henry Brodaty, The Scientia Professor of Ageing and Mental Health at the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre a the University of New South Wales claims that the industry is open to trying new ways of administering drugs. “I think drug companies are into making money,” Brodaty says. “if they thought [perispinal Enbrel] was a winner, they would back it.”

So the controversy continues but the spouse of the  Alzheimer’s sufferer who was highlighted in this story sees no controversy; while not restoring all his functions, she says he can walk the dog and confidently make a cup of tea. “It’s not a cure by any means but if it keeps people in a more stable state, it’s got to be the way to go until something better comes along.”

Full text of Article in the Sydney Morning Herald.