Dr. Maurice W. Dysken of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and colleagues examined the effectiveness and safety of vitamin E, memantine -- a class of Alzheimer's medications -- and the combination for treatment of functional decline in patients with mild to moderate AD. The study participants took an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor -- a chemical that increases the level and duration of action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
The trial involved 613 patients at 14 Veterans Affairs medical centers. Participants received either 2,000 International Units/day of vitamin E, 20 milligrams/d of memantine, the combination, or a placebo. Change in functional decline was gauged via the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study/Activities of Daily Living Score.
The study, scheduled to be published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found over the average follow-up time of 2.3 years, participants receiving vitamin E had slower functional decline than those receiving placebo, with the annual rate of decline in activities of daily living reduced by 19 percent. In addition, caregiver time was reduced by about 2 hours per day in the vitamin E group.
This treatment effect translates into a clinically meaningful delay in progression in the vitamin E group of 6.2 months. Neither memantine nor the combination of vitamin E and memantine showed clinical benefit in this trial, the researchers said.