Extending the use of Aricept for Alzheimer’s

Aricept used for mild Alzheimers Disease may also help severe patients

(RxWiki News) Aricept (donepezil) is currently approved for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease and is commonly taken by people in early stages of the disease. New research extends the use of the drug for people in moderate to severe stages of the disease.

Doctors are currently advised to stop Aricept treatment when a patient progresses into severe stages of the Alzheimer's Disease.

A multi-site study in the United Kingdom showed that patients that continued taking Aricept into the severe stages of the disease showed slower declines in cognition and function compared to people who stopped taking the drug.

"Discuss your Alzheimer’s symptoms with your physician"

The study, led by Robert Howard, MD, of the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College in London, asked 295 patients to enroll in the study for one year as they were advancing to more severe stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Some patients were asked to continue taking Aricept.

Some patients were asked to stop taking Aricept, and others started taking another drug - Namenda (memantine). Patients were monitored over the year for changes in their thinking abilities and daily life function.

Aricept is in a class of drugs called acetylcholinestrase inhibitors and acts by modifying the functions of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter.  Namenda has function on a different neurotransmitter, glutamate, and is approved for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s Disease.

Patients who continued on Aricept showed fewer declines in function and thinking abilities compared to patients that stopped taking Aricept. Both Aricept and Namenda had similar benefits for cognitive abilities and daily function. 

The authors conclude that continued use of Aricept into the severe stages of Alzheimer’s Disease can help with symptoms and the progression of the disease.

The study was published March 8, 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Drugs for the study were donated by Pfizer-Eisa and Lundbeck.

Review Date: 
April 7, 2012