Combining two drugs may help ameliorate Alzheimer's symptoms

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Two drugs that act differently on the brain's chemistry worked in tandem to help ameliorate Alzheimer's disease, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For six months at 37 sites, researchers analyzed 404 patients who had moderate to severe Alzheimer's. All of the patients were taking donepezil, which prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain. Patients who took the drug memantine in tandem with donepezil scored better on tests for cognition and some quality-of-life measures than patients given a placebo. Memantine counteracts the overproduction of the chemical glutamate, which kills brain cells.

 

Researchers said the interactions between the two drugs were unclear.

 

Memantine is the generic name for Namenda, produced by Forest Laboratories, which in October became the first drug approved U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer's disease. Donepezil is the generic name for Aricept, produced by Pfizer. Researchers received grants and honorariums from pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs.