Widely Used Drug Ineffective for Mild Alzheimer’s

As reported in Health.com, a drug widely used to treat mild Alzheimer’s disease appears to provide no benefit to this group of early stage patients, according to a new analysis of previously conducted research.Œæ
Memantine, also known by its brand name, Namenda, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for moderate-to-severe cases of Alzheimer’s, although doctors often prescribe it for milder cases of the disease.Œæ In 2003, the FDA approved memantine for moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s disease, but two years later the agency rejected an application from the manufacturer, Forest Laboratories, to expand the approval to mild Alzheimer’s. The drug has remained popular for that purpose.
Says the lead researcher, Lon Schneider, M.D., a professor of psychiatry, neurology, and gerontology at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. “We think physicians, patients, and caregivers should simply know this.”
Schneider and his colleagues reanalyzed data from three clinical trials that included 431 patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease and 697 with moderate Alzheimer’s. Patients with mild Alzheimer’s who took memantine showed no improvement in mental function and their ability to handle everyday tasks compared with those who took placebo.
Gary Kennedy, M.D., the director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City, says that while the new study will “make people more appropriately cautious,” it isn’t likely to change doctors’ prescribing practices.