A press release announcing the results of a study on Alzheimer's drugs, used in combination sounds promising. Titled, "Study confirms benefit of combination therapy for Alzheimer's disease: First long-term study finds that treatment slows symptom progression, benefits last for years," the release can be found on massgeneral.org.
One of the difficulties researchers face in studying how long Alzheimer's drugs are effective is that patients continue to decline, and it's hard to determine how much they would have declined without the drugs. Families of people with Alzheimer's see the decline and have a difficult time determining if the drugs are actually helping.
This release states, "Extended treatment with Alzheimer's disease drugs can significantly slow the rate at which the disorder advances, and combination therapy with two different classes of drugs is even better at helping patients maintain their ability to perform daily activities."
The results of this study were published by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in the July/September issue of Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders. The study used two types of medications which have received FDA approval for Alzheimer's treatment - cholinesterase drugs, which act by inhibiting the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and memantine, which is the first of a second class of agents that affect the amino acid glutamate and is often used in combination with cholinesterase inhibitors.
According to the release, the study results showed "significant differences in the rate of symptom progression" among the groups studied.
"What we can say now is that providers should help patients understand that the benefits of these drugs are long term and may not be apparent in the first months of treatment. Even if a patient's symptoms get worse, that doesn't mean the drug isn't working, since the decline probably would have been much greater without therapy," researchers said.
I was happy to read that the study was "entirely supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the Massachusetts Alzheimer's Disease Research Center so there was no involvement or support from the pharmaceutical industry."
This is good news. These drugs are available now. People who already have the disease, especially those in the early stages, should have ready access to the drug combination, and may have help in achieving more quality in their lives for a longer period of time.
Published On: October 01, 2008