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Drug could prevent long-term memory loss in Alzheimer's patients

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An Alzheimer’s drug could show long-term benefits for memory loss, a new study suggests.

Donepezil hydrochloride (Aricept) was used in a study by the University of California – Los Angeles.

The research suggests that the treatment of early symptoms of memory loss may protect the brain and help people with mild age-related memory impairment.

A small sample of adults with mild age-related memory loss was given either Aricept or placebo daily. Before and after 18 months of treatment both groups had PET brain scans.

Alzheimer’s disease is the end result of gradual progressive brain aging. Positron emission technology (PET) scans of patients’ brains typically reveal a decreased metabolic rate characteristic of the disease. Those taking Aricept, however, showed an increased rate of metabolism and looked more normal than those taking placebo.

The research shows that PET offers researchers a tool for tracking the effectiveness of drugs to treat age-related cognitive decline. Both groups scored the same on memory tests, suggesting that PET scans may be more sensitive than neuropsychological tests in detecting drugs’ effects.

Findings were presented at a poster presentation at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease 2008 this week in Chicago.

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