Drug May Improve Learning in Down Syndrome Children

Language skills also enhanced with use of Aricept, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 6, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Aricept, a drug used to treat Alzheimer's disease, may also help increase the language skills of children with Down syndrome, according to Duke University Medical Center researchers.

They conducted a 22-week preliminary clinical trial that included seven children, aged 8 to 13, with Down syndrome. After 16 weeks of taking Aricept (donepezil hydrochloride), the children showed improvements in their ability to communicate thoughts and feelings.

A larger, randomized trial is necessary to confirm the results, the researchers said.

These findings echo those of an earlier trial by the same researchers that assessed the drug's effect on adults with Down syndrome.

While both studies showed promise, this kind of treatment would likely have the most benefit in children with Down syndrome, the researchers said.

"A therapy that could change the lives of people with Down syndrome early in childhood, making them more active learners, could really maximize their benefit and quality of life," lead researcher Dr. Priya Kishnani, a medical geneticist and co-director of the Down syndrome clinic at Duke, said in a prepared statement.

The study appears in the Oct. 15 issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about Down syndrome.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, October 2004

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