January 20, 2009

Memory Pill May Soon Be Available

A pill that could aid exam revision and help prevent people from forgetting important anniversaries, may soon be available over the counter.

The "memory pill" was designed to help treat Alzheimer's disease, but now could be adapted and licensed for sale in a weaker form within the next few years.

AstraZeneca, a multinational company, is developing one brand of memory-enhancing pill, in a collaboration with Targacept, an American company.

A neurologist and former committee member of the Food and Drug Administration, Steven Ferris, has predicted that a milder version will be available for healthy consumers as a "lifestyle pill" over the counter.

Dr Ferris told the Telegraph, "My view is that one could gain approval, provided you showed the drugs to be effective and safe. It could be a huge market."

There is evidence that mind-improving drugs are currently being taken in Britain by healthy users.

The drug Provigil, which is used to treat narcolepsy, is being taken by some students to help them stay awake, while Adderall XR and Ritalin, treatments for attention deficit disorder, are use to promote concentration.

"We get a lot of calls from college campuses asking about it," a spokesman for Adderall XR said.  "There are risks though. It can raise blood pressure, people shouldn't do it."

According to the Department of Health, it is not illegal to buy the medicines over the internet, however, it is not recommended.

Barbara Sahakian, professor of clinical neuropsychology at Cambridge, said, "It's hard to quantify the scale of the phenomenon but it's definitely catching on."

She added, "The reality is we're not always at our best. After being up at night looking after the kids or traveling, many people would love to have something to sharpen them up. It's not taboo to drink Red Bull. The principle with cognition enhancers is not so different."


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