Researchers studying a potential new drug for vascular dementia find it can help treat the cognitive impairment typical of the condition.
Vascular dementia -- or VaD -- is usually associated with cardiovascular disease. About 15 percent to 20 percent of all cases of dementia are attributed to VaD. Unlike Alzheimer's disease, which robs people of their cognitive abilities slowly over time, VaD often strikes quickly, such as after a stroke. However, studies show similarities between Alzheimer's and VaD, particularly in terms of a cholinergic (nerve fiber) deficit, leading researchers to believe VaD patients may also benefit from treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors. Cholinesterase inhibitors are often used in the treatment of Alzheimer's.
In this study, investigators studied the effect of the cholinesterase inhibitor donepezil on people with a probable or possible diagnosis of VaD. About 600 patients with an average age of 75 took part in the study. Patients were randomized to receive the drug in one of two doses -- five milligrams once a day or 10 milligrams once a day -- or a placebo, for 24 weeks. Patients on the higher dose first took the lower dose for about a month.
Results showed both of the active drug groups had improvements in cognitive function as measured by standard tests when compared with those who received the placebo. The 10-milligram per day dose resulted in additional treatment benefits on a test aimed at measuring dementia severity. The drug was also well tolerated, causing few unwanted side effects among those who received it.