In our aging society, with an increased urgency to develop new compounds that target serious illnesses like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, memory enhancement drugs are becoming a big business. But these same drugs are also creating a growing ethical controversy over their potential off-label uses, such as taking these drugs as "performance enhancers" to gain a competitive advantage in the workplace. These issues, along with the biochemistry of memory, are explored in a recent article.
Right now, there are only a handful of memory-enhancing drugs on the market. In Chemical & Engineering News, senior editor Sophie L. Rovner describes work at several companies, from small start-ups to pharmaceutical giants, that are developing and testing a variety of memory enhancing products that show promise for the treatment of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke and schizophrenia. In the continuing search for better drugs, even familiar compounds such as nicotine and coffee are being explored for their potential memory-enhancing effects, Rovner notes.
Despite their promise, there's growing regulatory and ethical concern about the use of such drugs for non-medical purposes. This includes using memory-enhancing compounds as stimulants to gain a competitive edge in the workplace or even on exams, which could result in unfair advantages over people who do not use the drugs. The possibility of off-label or recreational uses of these drugs could ultimately limit their wider acceptance, the article suggests. For better or for worse, memory-enhancing drugs are poised to play a bigger role in the future.
Reference: "Memory Enhancement: Several companies are developing compounds that improve memory, but ethical issues abound," Chemical & Engineering News, Sept. 3, 2007.
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