News From the End of Life

Alzheimer’s drug may be more beneficial

The benefits of donepezil hydrochloride, marketed as Aricept, may extend into more advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease than previously investigated, according to a study of patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in the Aug. 28 issue of Neurology, found that Aricept, which is approved for the treatment of symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, conferred significant benefits vs. placebo in patient function, cognition, behavior, and activities of daily living, with very good tolerability. In addition, improvement in all behavioral symptom items on the neuropsychiatric inventory favored Aricept.

The Moderate to Severe Alzheimer’s Disease Study is the third Aricept study to be published in Neurology recently. Two additional placebo-controlled studies of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were published in the Aug. 14 issue. A function study found that one year of treatment reduced the risk of functional decline. The other previous study demonstrated that the drug maintained cognition, activities of daily living, and global function for one year.

"These three research articles in Neurology represent an important convergence of information," says Howard Feldman, MD, at the University of British Columbia Hospital’s Clinic for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders in Vancouver, BC, Canada. "Alzheimer’s research holds promise for the future, but doctors who care for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers should understand the benefits Aricept treatment offers today and may continue to offer. The findings . . . further reinforce the significance of Aricept as an important choice to preserve patients’ independence longer while they live with the disease."

Other study highlights include:

  • Aricept-treated patients remained stable throughout the study on measures of function, while placebo-treated patients showed functional decline.
  • The Aricept-treated group showed less decline on average compared with placebo-treated patients on both instrumental and basic activities of daily living.
  • The Aricept-treated group showed statistically significant overall improvement vs. placebo in behavioral disturbances associated with Alzheimer’s; a subanalysis of behavioral domains showed statistically significant benefits in apathy, depression, and anxiety.