"Getting extra fuel to the brain would provide an energy boost that could potentially lead to modest improvements," he said. "But it is very short-lived and does nothing to stop or treat the disease. I would think a low-fat frozen yogurt would achieve the same thing."
"This is just expensive coconut oil," said Dr. Roger Brumback, professor of neurology at the Creighton University School of Medicine. "It's another example of false hopes and an entrepreneur's financial gain in a disease that is clearly devastating to patients and families."
But other physicians aren't so quick to dismiss Axona. Steven Ferris, director of the Aging and Dementia Research Center at New York University, serves on the scientific advisory board at Accera, Axona's manufacturer. He said Axona's method of using different fuel to power Alzheimer's brain cells is a legitimate idea that scientists have explored since the 1980s. Although Axona's benefits are not proven, he said he doesn't believe the idea behind it is entirely worthless.
"I wouldn't characterize it as snake oil, simply because it does have a scientific basis and there is some data that suggests a potential benefit," he said. "If this were out there available in the supermarkets, I'd really be concerned. But we do have gatekeepers, the physicians. It really comes down to individual judgments by prescribers as to whether this is appropriate for their patients or not."
Richard Isaacson, a neurologist at the University of Miami School of Medicine who is also a paid consultant for Accera, said he likes having new options to present to patients who have so few.
"I don't want to give patients false hope, but I want to give them options," Isaacson said. "I want to do anything and everything I can for them. As long as it's safe, I'm still going to try it."