A new study, published in New England Journal of Medicine, conducted by Professor Robert Howard at the King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, and funded by the Alzheimer's Society and the Medical Research Council, reveals that the drug donepezil, used for the treatment of dementia and mild to moderate Alzheimer's Disease, which targets 750,000 people around the world, may be effective in treating patients with moderate to severe cases, as well.
The authors state that this new breakthrough may result in helping twice as many people around the world who suffer from dementia. Although donepezil has previously been used for treating early stages of dementia, the authors say that it is actually more helpful for the treatment of patients suffering from the later stages of dementia.
During the trial, the researchers analyzed two drugs: memantine and donepezil. Donepezil has previously been recommended by doctors for people who are experiencing the early symptoms of Alzheimer's, and is currently the most prevalent drug for the treatment of dementia.
As of now, doctors are told not to prescribe donepezil after the early stages of dementia because of lack of evidence proving it is effectiveness in treating the later stages of the disease.
Professor Robert Howard, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's, and lead researcher of the study commented:
"As patients progress to more sever forms of Alzheimer's disease, clinicians are faced with a difficult decision as to whether to continue or not with demtia drugs and, until now, there has been little evidence to guide that decision. For the first time, we have robust and compelling evident that treatment with these drugs can continue to help patients at the later, more severe stages of the disease."
During this study, the people who took donepezil after their symptoms worsened to the stages of moderate to severe, were seen to have much less of a rapid decline in cognitive memory, and were able to live their lives more normally than they would have without the drug. The patients who had been given memantine had better memory function as well, but less than the patients who had been given donepezil. The patients who took the placebo did not show improvement in cognitive ability.
"'We observed that patients who continued taking donepezil were better able to remember, understand, communicate and perform daily tasks for at least a year longer than those who stopped taking the drugs. These improvements were noticeable to patients, their caregivers and doctors. Both donepezil and memantine will soon be off patent and available in very cheap generic preparations. These findings will greatly increase the numbers of patients in the developed and developing world that we are able to treat."
Professor Clive Ballard, Director of Research at Alzheimer's Society said:
"Thanks to the Alzheimer's drug donepezil, tens of thousands of people in the early to moderate stages of the condition are able to recognise their family for longer, play with their grandchildren and make vital plans for the future. This major new trial now shows that there could also be significant benefits on continuing the treatment into the later stages too. There are 750,000 people with dementia in the UK yet currently prescription levels of Alzheimer's drugs are still low. If this is to change we have to improve the shocking diagnosis rates and ensure everyone is given the opportunity to try treatments."
Written By Christine Kearney
Copyright: Medical News Today