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Aricept Ranks Highest Among Drugs to Treat Alzheimer’s

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A new analysis that looked at four drugs currently approved to treat the mental decline of Alzheimer’s disease found that Aricept ranked highest in terms of easing cognitive decline. But all the drugs carry side effects, and some may be better for some people than others. And while the medications may ease symptoms for a time, none stop the relentless downward progression of the disease.

The study looked at the four currently approved drugs to treat the memory and thinking decline of Alzheimer’s: Aricept (generic name donepezil), Exelon (rivastigmine), Razadyne (galantamine) and Namenda (memantine). Aricept is most widely prescribed among the estimated 46 million people who have Alzheimer’s disease worldwide.

“Alzheimer’s dementia is the most common form of dementia in North America, and most people who have moderate to severe Alzheimer’s will be on these medications,” said Dr. Andrea Tricco, the lead author of the study and a scientist in the Li KaShing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “This analysis will give both patients and clinicians a full picture of how each of these drugs will likely affect their cognition, as well as their overall health.”

For the study, researchers reviewed evidence from 142 clinical trials that evaluated the four drugs, alone or in combination. The review, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, looked at almost 34,000 patients over all.

Patients were assessed for memory, alertness, mood and concentration. Aricept ranked highest in terms of curbing the memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease as well as behavior and overall health.

People who took Aricept, however, were more likely to experience side effects including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea than those who received a dummy pill, according to the study.

Although no significant risk of serious harm, falls or reduced heart rate was associated with any of the medications in the study, the data was limited on these specific outcomes.

Previous research by the authors found that cognitive enhancers do not improve cognition or function in people with mild cognitive impairment, a serious form of memory loss that may progress to full-blown Alzheimer’s. These patients also experience significantly more nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and headaches while on the drugs.

The findings of the current study will help guide patients and clinicians who are making decisions about the best course of treatment for Alzheimer’s dementia, said Dr. Tricco.

“The more information we are able to gather about how each of these medications can affect a patient’s cognition and health, the more likely we are to be able to improve their health outcomes,” she said.

By www.ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.

Source: Andrea C. Tricco, Huda M. Ashoor, Charlene Soobiah, et al: “Comparative Effectiveness and Safety of Cognitive Enhancers for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease: Systematic Review and Network Metaanalysis.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Sept. 29, 2017

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