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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Longer Use of Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Patients

Continued Treatment With Aricept Shows Some Merit
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What to Do Next? Treating Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease

Up until now, there was little evidence to support staying on Aricept. “If you stop treatment, they do worse,” he says. ”This substantiates that if someone is doing OK on Aricept and has no side effects, it makes sense to continue.”

And if they do stop Aricept, Namenda is still an option.

“Ongoing treatment matters,” Porsteinsson says. 

Does this mean a person with Alzheimer’s will remain independent for longer? It is too soon to say that, Porsteinsson tells WebMD. “What it means is that you stay at a higher level of [mental] function longer. This study didn’t say whether it will keep you out of a nursing home.”

Better Therapies Needed ASAP

Peter Davies, PhD, is less enthusiastic about ongoing treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. He is the scientific director of the Litwin-Zucker Center for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y.

“Continuing patients on Aricept once they've reached a fairly low level of [mental] function had some benefit, but this improvement was generally small in relation to the overall decline,” says Davies via email. “Those on the drug did a little better, but the overall decline continued. The bottom line here is that these drugs don't do a whole lot.”

William Thies, PhD, is the chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer’s Association. He says the results are not all that surprising. “Certainly, it reinforces the need for more research to create better therapies that have larger effects on the disease than both [Aricept and Namenda],” he says via email. “The resounding message from the quite modest benefits seen in the treatments tested in this study is that we desperately need better treatments for Alzheimer’s; treatments with much larger benefits for those who take them; treatments that slow or stop the progression of the disease.”

“People with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers should be in regular communication with their doctors about the risks and benefits of the currently approved Alzheimer’s medications,” Thies says.

The study findings appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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