Of the 334 subjects who completed the study, 215 took metrifonate for 26 weeks, and 119 took an inactive substance. The patients didn't know which type of pill they were taking, and the researchers didn't know who was in which group.
Test scores during treatment were compared with those at the beginning of the study. One test, involving paper and pencil tasks, evaluated cognitive performance. Through interviews with subjects and caregivers, others evaluated daily function and psychiatric and behavioral disturbances. Test scores of the patients who took the inactive substance declined progressively during the study, whereas those of patients who took metrifonate remained steady.
"For the first time, aspects of behavior that can be most troublesome for many Alzheimer patients, such as hallucinations and agitation, were shown to benefit from metrifonate treatment," Morris says. "This drug appears to allow patients to maintain better control of their problem behaviors than if they didn't take it."
The study also assessed metrifonate's convenience, safety and side effects through patient reports, physical exams and blood tests. The drug was convenient to take just once a day and did not affect liver function. Only 12 percent of those who took it left the study because of nausea, diarrhea or other side effects.
"This metrifonate study shows that this class of drugs can benefit patients with mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease, at least temporarily. This means that Alzheimer's disease clearly is treatable," Morris says. "Unless there is a specific medical or other contraindication, I generally recommend that acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors be considered for Alzheimer patients in the mild or moderate stages of the disease."
He stresses that the drugs do not reverse Alzheimer symptoms or keep
patients stable forever. "If people are cogn
Contact: Linda Sage
Washington University School of Medicine