Study: Alzheimer's drugs should be more widely used

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Study: Alzheimer's drugs should be more widely used
Study: Alzheimer's drugs should be more widely used

Alzheimer's medications typically used only in early stages of the disease can be more useful in later, more severe stages of dementia than previously thought, a new study suggests.

British researchers tested the dementia drugs Aricept and Namenda against a placebo in a group of 295 people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's. They found that individuals taking Aricept and Namenda — both separately and together — were better able to remember, understand, communicate and perform daily tasks for at least a year longer than those taking the placebo, according to the study.

The investigators said that physicians in many countries are often advised to stop treatment with Aricept when a patient has advanced beyond mild to moderate Alzheimer's. They suggested that extended use could help twice as many sufferers worldwide.

"As patients progress to more severe forms of Alzheimer's disease, clinicians are faced with a difficult decision as to whether to continue or not with dementia drugs and, until now, there has been little evidence to guide that decision," lead researcher Prof. Robert Howard told Reuters.

According to study disclosures, many of the study's investigators have received payment and reimbursement for services and travel by the manufacturers of Namenda and Aricept.

The study was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.