Updated on September 22, 2022
HealthDay operates under the strictest editorial standards. Our syndicated news content is completely independent of any financial interests, is based solely on industry-respected sources and the latest scientific research, and is carefully fact-checked by a team of industry experts to ensure accuracy.
- All articles are edited and checked for factual accuracy by our Editorial Team prior to being published.
- Unless otherwise noted, all articles focusing on new research are based on studies published in peer-reviewed journals or issued from independent and respected medical associations, academic groups and governmental organizations.
- Each article includes a link or reference to the original source.
- Any known potential conflicts of interest associated with a study or source are made clear to the reader.
Please see our Editorial and Fact-Checking Policy for more detail.Editorial and Fact-Checking Policy
HealthDay Editorial Commitment
HeathDay is committed to maintaining the highest possible levels of impartial editorial standards in the content that we present on our website. All of our articles are chosen independent of any financial interests. Editors and writers make all efforts to clarify any financial ties behind the studies on which we report.
WEDNESDAY, March 7, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A new study offers up mixed results about two medications used to treat the symptoms of the memory-robbing disease known as Alzheimer's.
While patients didn't get a major mental boost when doctors added the drug Namenda to their regimen when they were already taking Aricept, they did find that continuing Aricept -- a commonly prescribed drug for Alzheimer's in the United States -- seemed to help.
The results, which appear in the March 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, may seem a bit murky, especially because it's difficult to measure the effects of the drugs on day-to-day living. However, study author Dr. Robert Howard, a professor of old age psychiatry and psychopathology at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said both drugs are worth taking, possibly even together.
"While these drugs will not stop or slow down the tragic course of Alzheimer's disease, they can continue to improve symptoms as the disease becomes more severe," Howard said. "If you can, try to stay on them. The benefits are tangible and, if anything, seem to get larger as the illness progresses."
While Alzheimer's disease is incurable, several drugs are available to treat symptoms such as memory loss in patients with mild to moderate forms of the illness. It's not clear, however, what happens as the disease worsens.
In the new study, British researchers assigned 295 Alzheimer's patients with moderate to severe disease to one of four groups. All had been on the drug Aricept (donepezil). The patients either continued the drug; stopped the drug; stopped it and started Namenda (memantine); or they continued taking Aricept and started taking Namenda, too.
The study, which lasted for a year, was funded by the U.K. Medical Research Council and the U.K. Alzheimer's Society.
Patients who continued on Aricept had less impairment than those who didn't; the improvement was equal to about three to four months of decline, Howard said. "That's a noticeable difference for patients, caregivers and their doctors."
However, there didn't seem to be any significant benefit to taking both drugs. That contradicted a previous study that found there was a benefit, said Dr. Lon Schneider, a professor of psychiatry, neurology and gerontology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.
Aricept can be a difficult drug to tolerate. About half of those who take it will quit due to side effects, Schneider explained. Those side effects include anorexia, weight loss, heart trouble and agitation.
The findings could be interpreted in various ways, Schneider noted. The study provides evidence to support continuing Aricept, he said, and suggests that it may not be not necessary to start Namenda.
Schneider said he doubts the research would have a major impact by decreasing how often the drugs are prescribed. Still, the findings allow people to understand how much of an effect patients might encounter if they go off Aricept, he noted.
For more about Alzheimer's disease, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
This story may be outdated. We suggest some alternatives.
The content contained in this article is over two years old. As such our recommendation is that you reference the articles below for the latest updates on this topic. This article has been left on our site as a matter of historic record. Please contact us at email@example.com with any questions.