MIDDLETON (WKOW) -- In Monday night's series finale of 'Boston Legal' on ABC, William Shatner's character Denny Crane suffers moderate Alzheimer's Disease. He is desperate to try an experimental drug called Dimebon.
The show may be fake. The drug is real. "It won't be a cure, but hopefully it will work better than anything that's out on the market right now for Alzheimer's," said Dr. Leslie Taylor, a psychiatrist for the Dean Foundation.
Taylor is heading up the last stage of clinical trials for the drug. It's one of a dozen or so spots in the country signing up Alzheimer's patients with mild to moderate symptoms.
One of those patients is Ivanka Grabarek from Elburn, Illinois. Her husband Bill said doctors diagnosed her with the condition on June 27, 2008. "The short term memory, and simple things like adding and subtracting numbers, that was difficult," he said as he described some of the early symptoms
A quick Internet search led Bill Grabarek to find out Dean was testing Dimebon, manufactured by Medivation.
Grabarek said his wife is 12 weeks into her trial. Three times a day, she is either taking the drug or a placebo.
"It's slow, and it's uncertain, but you know, I feel generally the public benefits too from just the data we're able to generate," he said.
Three other drugs are already on the market for Alzheimer's. Exelon, Razadyne and Aricept. They are designed to slow memory loss. Grabarek said he wasn't interested in trying those drugs for his wife, citing another relative who used Aricept with little success and many side effects.
Dr. Taylor said earlier trials from Russia show Dimebon actually improved memory for a year, before then slowing down progressive memory loss.
That's gives hope for doctors and patients, who wish better treatment for Alzheimer's is more than fiction. "It would really be huge," said Dr. Taylor. "It would be entering into a whole new territory for treating Alzheimer's Disease."
"(Ivanka) is still my sweetheart, she's still my companion, but right now there's no cure," said Grabarek, who said if the drug works, it could help buy his wife another year. Once her six month trial has ended, she will be allowed to take the pill, if she's currently taking the placebo now, until the Food and Drug Administration decides whether to give final approval for Dimebon. That is expected in the next two years.
As a side note, the last two episodes of 'Boston Legal' made it appear that there were no more available spots to get into the clinical trial. Shatner's character Crane argues before the Supreme Court that he should have a chance to be included.
Dr. Taylor said there is no cap on spots available in the upper Midwest region for which Dean Foundation is responsible.
Grabarek is one of five people who have signed up so far in this region.
For more information about how to take part in the clinical study, call Dean at 1-800-827-2333 or visit Dean's website by CLICKING HERE. Participants must not be taking other Alzheimer's medication. They must first undergo a telephone screening. If passed, the person would then need an in-clinic screening.