Home News MS Patients Might Benefit From Alzheimer's Drug

For Your Info
There is a very small correlation between parents with MS and children or adult children developing MS.
About Us
Clinical Services
Participate in a Study
Volunteer / Donate
Contact Us
Teen Adventure Weekend
MS Patients Might Benefit From Alzheimer's Drug
Written by Kathleen Fackelmann, USA TODAY   
Tuesday, 09 November 2004
A drug used to treat Alzheimer's may also ease memory problems for people with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the brain and spinal cord, according to a study out today. As many as 60% of the 400,000 MS patients nationwide experience forgetfulness, yet there's no currently approved drug on the U.S. market to treat the cognitive problems of MS. A study in today's Neurology backs up other, smaller studies that had hinted that the Alzheimer's drug donepezil might boost memory for people with MS, an autoimmune disease that waxes and wanes, causing a range of symptoms including difficulty walking and tremors. Lauren Krupp of the State University of New York-Stony Brook and her colleagues recruited 69 MS patients who had mild thinking or memory problems as measured by a battery of tests given at the study's start. Half the people in the study got donepezil every day for 24 weeks, and half got an inactive pill, or placebo. At the end of the study, the researchers retested the recruits and found that people taking the donepezil did better on a memory test than those taking the placebo. The donepezil group improved by an average of 14% on the test: They remembered about four more words in a test of recall than people in the placebo group. But the four-word improvement might understate the drug's benefits. "Some people are going to get a more dramatic response than others," Krupp says. For example, an accountant in the study who was forced to stop working because of memory trouble was able to go back to work after taking donepezil, she says. About 66% of the donepezil patients in this study said that their memory had improved during the course of the study. No one knows for sure how donepezil might help. But the drug is known to block the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory, says Murali Doraiswamy, a memory researcher at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Still, this study of 69 people doesn't offer hard-and-fast scientific proof that donepezil works as a memory booster in MS, cautions Nicholas LaRocca at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in New York. Only a larger study will give patients that proof, he says. Krupp and her colleagues have started a larger study, but the results won't be in for two years. The Food and Drug Administration has already approved donepezil for the treatment of Alzheimer's, so doctors can prescribe it for other reasons, LaRocca says. But LaRocca and other experts urge doctors and patients to take a cautious approach to this drug, which can cause side effects such as nausea. "A lot of MS patients already are getting this drug," Doraiswamy says. "But I don't think we're ready to recommend it for everyone just yet."