Older news items (pre-2010) brought over from the old website

Risk of abnormally slow heart rate twice as high in those taking Alzheimer's drugs

Data from 1.4 million Canadians aged 67 and older has revealed that older patients hospitalized with bradycardia were more than twice as likely to have recently started on a cholinesterase inhibitor such as donepezil for Alzheimer's disease compared to those without bradycardia. Bradycardia is an abnormally slow resting heart rate (under 60 beats per minute). Although it can be asymptomatic, it can also cause fainting, palpitations, shortness of breath, or even death. Although there are three cholinesterase-inhibiting drugs approved for use in Canada, most had been prescribed donepezil. The findings add weight to recent guidelines suggesting that doctors should not prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors for dementia patients as a matter of course, but weigh the potential risks and benefits.

Park-Wyllie, L. Y., Mamdani, M. M., Li, P., Gill, S. S., Laupacis, A., & Juurlink, D. N. (2009). Cholinesterase Inhibitors and Hospitalization for Bradycardia: A Population-Based Study. PLoS Med, 6(9), e1000157. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000157. Full text available at

Depression may increase risk of Alzheimer's disease in people with memory problems

A three-year study involving 756 people with mild cognitive impairment found increases in depressive symptoms was positively associated with increased risk in developing Alzheimer’s. The study also found that, for those who were depressed, taking the Alzheimer’s drug donepezil significantly reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, compared to those taking vitamin E or placebo. Donepezil had little effect on those who were not depressed.

Lu, P.H. et al. 2009. Donepezil delays progression to AD in MCI subjects with depressive symptoms. Neurology, 72, 2115-2121.

Support for Alzheimer's drug Aricept

A small sample of adults with mild age-related memory loss was randomly assigned a daily placebo or Aricept. Although both groups scored the same on memory tests, PET brain scans before and after 18 months of treatment showed that those given Aricept had an increased rate of metabolism and looked more normal than the brains of those who took the placebo. It’s suggested that the treatment of early symptoms of memory loss may protect the brain.

The findings were presented July 30 at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease 2008.

Drug improves symptoms of severe Alzheimer's disease

A six-month study involving 343 people with severe Alzheimer’s disease has found that donepezil, a drug used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, stabilized or improved cognitive function in 63% of those taking donepezil compared to 39% of those taking placebo. Compared to the placebo group, those taking donepezil showed improvement in memory, language, attention, and recognizing one’s name. The donepezil group also showed less of a decline in social interaction, skills needed to complete a jigsaw puzzle, and arranging sentences compared to the placebo group.

Black, S.E. et al. 2007. Donepezil preserves cognition and global function in patients with severe Alzheimer disease. Neurology, 69, 459-469.

Donezepil slows brain deterioration for some on road to Alzheimer's

According to a new study, the drug donepezil measurably (but still only slightly) slows the rate of hippocampal shrinkage in patients with mild cognitive impairment (a pre-Alzheimer's condition) who carried the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE 4) gene variant. The study involved 131 patients with mild cognitive impairment. For APOE 4 carriers, the rate of hippocampal atrophy was 4.5% per year, versus 6.14% in placebo-treated patients. Rates of shrinkage for cognitively normal people in their late 70s are approximately 1.4 percent per year. Vitamin E had no significant effect on atrophy for any patients.

Findings were presented July 17 at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in Madrid, Spain.

New memory drug works best in combination with older drug

An experimental drug – a compound known as SGS742 – has been successful in animal studies in improving memory, and is now in human clinical trials. The drug works by blocking certain chemicals that interfere with memory formation, thus enabling better acquisition and retention of new information. It alters the activity of gene control machinery that is important for memory consolidation. It was most effective when used in conjunction with Aricept, an established Alzheimer’s drug.

Helm, K.A., Haberman, R.P., Dean, S.L., Hoyt, E.C., Melcher, T., Lund, P.K. & Gallagher, M. 2005. GABAB receptor antagonist SGS742 improves spatial memory and reduces protein binding to the cAMP response element (CRE) in the hippocampus. Neuropharmacology, 48(7), 956-64

Clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's may be delayed with donepezil

In a study of people with mild cognitive impairment, those who took the drug donepezil were at reduced risk of progressing to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's during the first years of the trial, but by the end of the 3-year study there was no benefit from the drug. Of the 769 participants, 212 developed possible or probable Alzheimer’s within the 3-year study period; the donepezil group's risk of progression to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was reduced by 58% one year into the study, and 36% at 2 years, but no risk reduction at the end of three years. Vitamin E was also tested in the study and was found to have no effect at any point in the study.

Petersen, R.C. et al. 2005. Vitamin E and Donepezil for the Treatment of Mild Cognitive Impairment. New England Journal of Medicine, 352 (23), 2379-2388.

Donepezil may have short-term benefit for mild cognitive impairment

Preliminary data from a recently completed clinical trial of 769 patients with mild cognitive impairment indicates that those taking the drug donepezil were at reduced risk of progressing to Alzheimer's disease for 18 months. The reduced risk disappeared after 18 months, and by the end of the 3-year study, the probability of progressing to Alzheimer’s was the same in the two groups. The study compared donepezil, vitamin E, or placebo. There was no apparent benefit from vitamin E.

The data were presented at the Alzheimer Association's 9th International Conference on Research on AD and Related Disorders (ICAD) in Philadelphia on July 18, 2004.

Doubt over effectiveness of cholinesterase inhibitors for treatment of Alzheimer's

A study involving 565 Alzheimer’s patients has found that while donepezil did improve tests of mental and functional ability over the first 2 years of treatment, the improvement was slight, and there was no significant delay in institutionalization or progression of disability. There were also no differences between donepezil and placebo in behavioral and psychological symptoms, formal care costs, unpaid caregiver time, adverse events or deaths, or between the two doses of donepezil used in the study.

AD2000 Collaborative Group. 2004. Long-term donepezil treatment in 565 patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD2000): randomised double-blind trial. The Lancet, 363 (9427), 2105-15.

ARICEPT® helpful in treating patients with severe Alzheimer's

A new analysis from the Moderate to Severe Alzheimer's Disease Study (MSAD), previously published in Neurology in August 2001, suggests that ARICEPT® may also be helpful to those with more advanced Alzheimer’s. The study involved 145 patients with severe Alzheimer's disease who were residing in the community or in assisted living settings. Patients requiring total nursing care were ineligible. ARICEPT®-treated patients showed cognitive improvement ; improved or stable global function; less decline on activities of daily living; fewer behavioral disturbances. Some 10% had to drop out because of adverse reactions.

The data were presented at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 55th Annual Meeting.

ARICEPT better than Reminyl for cognition

Results from the first study to directly compare the two Alzheimer drugs, ARICEPT® (donepezil HCl tablets) and Reminyl® (galantamine HBr tablets), found that ARICEPT-treated patients showed significant benefit over patients receiving Reminyl®. Not only were cognitive benefits greater, but ARICEPT® was tolerated significantly better.

The study was presented at the 7th International Geneva/Springfield Symposium on Advances in Alzheimer Therapy (AAT) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Aricept helpful for those with moderate to severe Alzheimer's

The benefits of ARICEPT® (donepezil hydrochloride) may extend into more advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease than previously investigated, according to a first-ever published study of ARICEPT® in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease, which found significant benefits in patient function, cognition, behavior, and activities of daily living, with very good tolerability. ARICEPT® is approved for the treatment of symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Further study of ARICEPT® in patients with severe Alzheimer's disease is currently under way.

Feldman, H., Gauthier, S., Hecker, J., Vellas, B., Subbiah, P., & Whalen, E. (2001). A 24-week, randomized, double-blind study of donepezil in moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology, 57(4), 613–620. doi:10.1212/WNL.57.4.613

Alzheimer's patients taking Aricept maintain daily activities longer

In a 54-week U.S. study of 415 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's, patients who took the drug donepezil maintained their level of functioning in everyday activities such as shopping and fixing meals, 72 percent longer than those who received a placebo did. The study measured the amount of time before patients' functioning declined based on a clinical rating scale. Those taking donepezil declined, on average, five months later than the people taking the placebo.
Another study found that patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease taking placebo declined by about twice as much as those taking donepezil, based on a scale of cognitive ability, functioning in daily activities and other factors. The one-year study involved 286 people in Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

Mohs, R. C., Doody, R. S., Morris, J. C., Ieni, J. R., Rogers, S. L., Perdomo, C. A., & Pratt, R. D. (2001). A 1-year, placebo-controlled preservation of function survival study of donepezil in AD patients. Neurology, 57(3), 481–488. doi:10.1212/WNL.57.3.481

Winblad, B., Engedal, K., Soininen, H., Verhey, F., Waldemar, G., Wimo, A., … Subbiah, P. (2001). A 1-year, randomized, placebo-controlled study of donepezil in patients with mild to moderate AD. Neurology, 57(3), 489–495. doi:10.1212/WNL.57.3.489

The drug Aricept might be more effective for Alzheimers sufferers than previously thought

A new study has demonstrated that the drug Aricept® can "switch on" brain cells thought to be irreparably damaged in Alzheimers sufferers. Previous research suggested Aricept had no such dramatic effects. The new findings may enable more effective use to be made of the drug.,4273,4080005,00.html