Alzheimer’s drug shows staying power

Since its U.S. approval in 2003, the drug memantine has been prescribed to slow mental decline in people with moderate-to-advanced Alzheimer’s disease. But studies hadn’t addressed the drug’s long-term effectiveness.

Researchers report in the January Archives of Neurology that 66 people taking memantine for Alzheimer’s disease continued to benefit for a year, the longest test of the drug to date, says coauthor Barry Reisberg, a geriatric psychiatrist at New York University School of Medicine.

During the first 6 months of the study, the benefits were assessed in comparison with Alzheimer’s patients randomly assigned to take placebos (SN: 4/5/03, p. 211: Available to subscribers at Progress Against Dementia: Drug slows Alzheimer’s in severely ill patients). People who switched from placebo to memantine after 6 months also benefited by 1 year.

Memantine slows mental decline in Alzheimer’s but doesn’t reverse it, which is also the case for cholinesterase inhibitors, which doctors prescribe for patients in the early stages of the disease.

Researchers are investigating whether patients can get more benefit from using memantine along with cholinesterase inhibitors, Reisberg says.

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