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19th March 2012

Possible benefit of prolonged drug use for Alzheimer’s patients

Medicinal drugs may slow down the late stages of the disease
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Research has shown that the continued use of medicinal drugs in the late stages of Alzheimer’s may help to slow down the disease in patients.

Alzheimer’s disease reaches out and affects many of us, whether it is through family or friends, or hearing about it through the media. Statistics show that approximately 500,000 people in the UK are currently living with the disease, with only 10 percent currently receiving drug treatment.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition most common after the age of 65, affecting areas of the brain important for memory. Over time the disease progresses and the level of cognitive decline increases, leading to serious memory loss and changes in personality.

The study, released in the New England Journal of Medicine, monitored the memory and performance in everyday tasks of 295 subjects suffering from the disease that had previously taken the drug Aricept and found a slower rate of decline in the memory of these patients.

Aricept is usually prescribed during the early stages of the disease, with its use discontinued as the disease progresses into the later stages.

The funding of drugs to treat dementia has been subject to much debate in the past. The medicine regulatory body NICE set restrictions on the use of drugs for the treatment of dementia in 2006, a restriction that has recently been over-turned.

Guidelines now support prolonged treatment so long as it is beneficial to the patient. This follows the end of the patent on Aricept, allowing more cost-effective versions of the drug to be developed, costing as little as £12 a month to prescribe.

This trial provides clear evidence that treatment with these drugs can be beneficial in slowing down the disease in patients in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. Patients taking Aricept were four months better than those patients not taking the drug, in terms of their memory and their ability to carry out daily tasks.

This study will help to improve the quality of lives of the many people suffering from the late stages of Alzheimer’s and so provide a way forward to the generation of further treatments in the very near future.

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