Popular Drug Keeps Alzheimer’s Patients at Home Longer

A popular drug prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease has been found to stave off institutional care and keep patients in their homes longer, according to new research conducted by specialists in the United Kingdom.

The study of 295 patients was conducted by the University College London and co-funded by the Alzheimer’s Society and the Medical Research Council. It suggests that among people with advancing Alzheimer’s, withdrawing Donepezil—a drug prescribed for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s that relieves some symptoms and provides a temporary cognitive boost—doubles their likelihood of moving to a nursing home within a year. Typically, doctors remove Donepezil from treatment plans as the disease progresses.

“The benefits translate into a delay in becoming dependent on residential care; an event that many people dread,” Robert Howard, a UCL professor of old-age psychiatry, told The Financial Times.

As part of the study, select participants randomly received Donepezil and memantine, another generic Alzheimer’s drug, together or separately. Others were administered placebo tablets.

Donepezil delayed nursing home entry by up to four years, according to the study. At the end of year one, just 20% of people on the drug were in care, as compared to 37% not taking the medication. At the four-year mark, 70% of patients were in care, whether or not they had taken the drug.

Memantine, on the other hand, had no effect on the risk of moving to a nursing home, according to the study.

“We are not saying that Donepezil is slowing down Alzheimer’s or claiming a breakthrough in neuroscience,” Howard said. “But even a modest effect may be important if the patient is a parent, sibling or someone close to you.”

Written by Kourtney Liepelt