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Depression Linked to Increased Risk for Alzheimer's Disease

Donepezil found to delay progression better than vitamin E and placebo in depressed cohort

TUESDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- For people with mild cognitive impairment, depression is associated with high risk for development of Alzheimer's disease, but the association can be mitigated with the Alzheimer's disease drug donepezil, according to a study in the June 16 issue of Neurology.

Po H. Lu, of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research in Los Angeles, and colleagues studied a cohort of 756 people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment who participated in the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study drug trial of donepezil and vitamin E versus placebo. In the current research, the Beck Depression Inventory was used to assess depressive symptoms at study baseline and the cohort was divided into depressed and nondepressed subgroups.

The researchers found that higher Beck Depression Inventory scores were associated with development of Alzheimer's disease. The proportion of depressed subjects progressing to Alzheimer's disease was significantly lower at 1.7 and 2.2 years in the donepezil group, with a marginally significant decreased risk holding at 2.7 years.

"Results suggest that depression is predictive of progression from amnestic mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease and treatment with donepezil delayed progression to Alzheimer's disease among depressed subjects with amnestic mild cognitive impairment. Donepezil appears to modulate the increased risk of Alzheimer's disease conferred by the presence of depressive symptoms," the authors write.

Several of the study authors have been paid consultants to various pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Eisai, which co-market donepezil under the brand name Aricept.

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