Alzheimer’s drug could keep half of patients out of homes

Tara Spires-Jones
Tara Spires-Jones
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A common Alzheimer’s drug that is often withdrawn in later stages of the disease can halve the risk of severely ill patients being moved into nursing homes, research has shown

Aricept, the brand name of the drug donepezil, is frequently used to reduce to manage symptoms in cases of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. However, it is typically not given to people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease because of a perceived lack of benefit.

A new study may force a re-think of the policy of not giving the worst affected patients access to the drug.

The Domino trial showed that withdrawing Aricept doubled the chances of an Alzheimer’s patient being moved into a nursing home after a year.

On average, the annual cost of residential care for people with dementia ranges between £30,732 and £34,424. In comparison, a year’s supply of Aricept can cost as little as £21.59.

Lead researcher Professor Robert Howard, from University College London, said: “Our previous work showed that, even when patients had progressed to the moderate or severe stages of their dementia, continuing with donepezil treatment provided modest benefits in cognitive function and in how well people could perform their daily activities.”

However, Dr Tara Spires-Jones, reader and chancellor’s Fellow, Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems, University of Edinburgh, said: The study by Robert Howard and 
colleagues suggests that continuing donepezil treatment into the late stages of disease may slightly delay the need to move into permanent nursing home care.

“This is good news, but the results should be interpreted with caution.”