Rivastigmine Shows Benefit in Brain-Injury Memory Loss

Drug may be most useful for patients with moderate to severe memory impairment

TUESDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with the drug rivastigmine, which is thought to enhance the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, shows promising preliminary results in brain-injured patients with moderate to severe memory impairment, according to a study published in the Sept. 12 issue of Neurology. But the drug may be less helpful for brain-injured patients with milder degrees of memory loss.

Jonathan M. Silver, M.D., of the New York School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues conducted a 12-week study in which 134 brain-injured patients with persistent cognitive impairment (at least one year and an average of six years for the group) were randomly assigned receive either rivastigmine (3 to 6 mg/day) or placebo.

The researchers found that 48.7 percent of the rivastigmine group and 49.3 percent of the placebo group were responders according to either the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery and Rapid Visual Information Processing A' subtest or the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test. But in a subgroup of 81 patients with moderate to severe memory impairment, they found that rivastigmine was significantly better than placebo on some measures and showed positive trends on others. The most common side effects in the rivastigmine group included nausea, headache, vomiting, and dizziness.

"Further investigations are needed to confirm these preliminary findings and to better define the patient population that may achieve the best response with rivastigmine," the authors concluded.

The study was supported by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

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