Researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine have released the first study demonstrating that donepezil (Aricept) may slow the mental decline associated with Alzheimer's disease. The study included 769 patients aged 55 to 90 with mild cognitive impairment?mostly memory-related. They were randomly assigned to receive high doses of vitamin E, donepezil, or placebo for 3 years. After 1 year, 16 of the patients taking donepezil had progressed to Alzheimer's disease, compared with 38 in the placebo group. By year 3, the difference narrowed to 63 individuals in the donepezil group and 73 in the placebo group advancing to Alzheimer's disease. Results from the vitamin E group were similar to those of the placebo group. Deborah Blacker, MD, ScD, of Harvard Medical School remarked on the study, "There is every reason to expect that at least some of these agents [now in clinical trials] will prove effective and can be deployed early in the hope of stopping the disease process while function remains intact."
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.