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Alzheimer's drugs benefits

8th March 2012

Keeping patients with advanced Alzheimer’s on drug treatment continues to have benefits, according to new research.

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Patients who stayed on the drug Aricept - which tends to be no longer prescribed when people progress beyond moderate symptoms - had a slower decline in their memory.

The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 295 Alzheimer's patients in England and Scotland who had been taking Aricept.

One set were given placebo tablets while another set stayed on Aricept. A third set were given another drug, Ebixa, or memantine, which is usually prescribed only in the later stages of Alzheimer's and a fourth batch of patients received a combination of both drugs.

The drugs did not halt the decline of patients, but slowed it down.

With the patent for Aricept having expired and cheaper generic versions of the drug now available, the researchers believe their findings could lead to many more Alzheimer’s patients being given medication.

Professor Robert Howard from King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, who lead to study, said: “For the first time, we have robust and compelling evidence that treatment with these drugs can continue to help patients at the more severe stages.”

In 2006, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) set restrictions on dementia drug funding but last year revised NICE guidelines and accepted that medicines including Aricept were cost-effective.

The trial was part funded by the Alzheimer’s Society and dementia organisations have welcomed the findings. Some 500,000 people in the UK are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease.

 

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