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Alzheimer's Disease

Long Term Effects of Aricept Use

07/05/2006

Question:

I am 58 and have a history of early onset Alzheimer`s Disease in my family. After recently noticing some trouble with short term memory I underwent neuropsychological testing. The results showed "More of a frontal subcortical pattern of compromise, if any". After seeing a Neurologist and discussing medication options I was told that patients who take Aricept (or any of this family of medications) for some length of time (a year or more) show a marked decline (in memory function presumably) when the medication is halted, never to be regained. This concerned me. It feels like if I decide to take this medication (and tolerate it well) then I am committed to taking it for the rest of my life. Do we know any more about this "decline" when medication is halted? Are there any long term studies about use of these drugs? I`m trying to make the right decision but am wary about this life time commitment and just the fact that halting the medication can cause decline causes me much concern. Thank you so much for any information.

Answer:

In my opinion (and opinions of experts vary) there is no good evidence that discontinuance of Aricept (or other medications approved by the FDA for Alzheimer's) causes such a decline. Drug companies try to convince people to stay on their drug once it is started. Your neuropsychological test results also raise a question of the proper diagnosis in my view. Good luck. 

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Response by:

Peter J Whitehouse, MD, PhD Peter J Whitehouse, MD, PhD
Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University