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Is There a Drug(s) to Halt Dementia in Patients With Alzheimer's?

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In the last decade a number of medications have been developed to reverse/halt the effects of dementia. One of the most common disorders associated with dementia world wide is Alzheimer’s.

This awful disease generally starts around the age 70 and progresses relentlessly. Now drug companies are marketing drugs to help halt or reverse the dementia . The first such drug used to reverse dementia was Aricept. Since then, a variety of other nootropic drugs have been developed including donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine. A number of clinical studies have been done comparing these drugs to placebo in patients with Alzheimer’s.

In all the studies, only the mildest cases of Alzheimer’s dementia was improved with these drugs. Further, there was no difference between the drugs. The most clear finding from these trials was that these drugs had significant side effects and close to 30-50 percent of patients had to discontinue the drugs.

At the moment, these nootropic drugs have not been the panacea for treatment of dementia. These drugs do not work in all types of dementia except Alzheimer’s.

And even when the drugs work, only the mild cases of Alzheimer’s disease improves. Finally, these drugs are fairly expensive and not everyone responds to them. Less than 5 percent of patient show any significant improvement.

So what is the consumer supposed to do? Most experts do not recommend these drugs because of the profound side effects which makes the individual worse than he/she previously was. Further these medications have to be taken every day and do not cure Alzheimer’s disease. The beneficial effects of these drugs are not long lasting and stop the moment the drug is discontinued.

The decision of whether to start drug therapy to reverse or halt dementia is personal and requires some clinical judgment. Unfortunately so far no drug has made any great impact on the disease. As of today, loving and supportive care of your family member is still better than any drug therapy for Alzheimer’s disease

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EmpowHER Guest

I think you are off base and wish you would site the studies you refer to. Many of us have benefitted from Aricept and Ariecpt/Namenda combinations for much longer than studies indicate. Sometimes it's a small improvement in only one area that might not be meaningful in a study, but is significant to the individual. I can grocery shop again with Aricept. I had no faith in the drug and didn't even want to try it, but was encouraged by friends who had good response. Within 2 weeks I had improved. While I happen to think that people with advanced age, compounding health problems and poor compliance may, indeed, be poor candidates for medication for dementia, I also believe people deserve to try medications to improve their lives. So far there is no test that can say who will do well on them and no one but the patient can weight the side effects against the benefits.

Diane Thornton

April 28, 2009 - 11:05am

Hi rmjv,

i 100% agree with you, that even a few months relief is a blessing. Alzheimer's a dreadful disorder and one can only appreciate it when a family member has been affected.

There are some newer nootropic drugs and i will write about them in the next few weeks.

good luck


April 7, 2009 - 4:43pm

My mom was on Aricept for a short while. She had too many side effects from the drug and didn't see any improvement (probably because she had hippocampal sclerosis dementia, not Alzheimer's).

Depending on the type of Alzheimer's disease though, I can think it make sense to try Aricept or other nootropic drugs though. Even a few months of delayed progress can make a big difference to the patient and their family.

April 7, 2009 - 4:26pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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