Report: Vitamin E, Parkinson's drug slow Alzheimer's disease
April 23, 1997
Web posted at: 11:35 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Researchers said Wednesday that Vitamin E
and a drug used to treat Parkinson's disease may slow the
deterioration caused by Alzheimer's disease.
"I think it's a big deal for two reasons," Mary Sano of
Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons said
at a news conference.
"These are outcomes that relate to the quality of life of
patients and their families ... The second reason is because
it's important to do these kinds of ... long studies and look
at meaningful outcomes."
The findings, reported in Wednesday's New England Journal of
Medicine, show that patients who took vitamin E or the
anti-Parkinson's drug selegiline or eldepryl were able to
delay for six to seven months key symptoms of the disease,
such as memory loss and the ability to bathe and dress.
"We believe that the results of this study will be used to
change the prescribing practices in the United States and
probably many other parts of the world," Dr. Leon Thal of the
University of California at San Diego said.
Sano led a team that followed 341 patients with moderately
severe Alzheimer's symptoms over two years. The patients were
divided into groups that were treated with a placebo,
selegiline, vitamin E and a combination of the two drugs.
The placebo group lagged behind the other three. Those other
three groups were statistically similar in slowing the
effects of Alzheimer's, the researchers said. The combination
group did not show a notable advantage, they found.
Edward Truschke, president of the Alzheimer's Association,
which provides support and research money to combat the
disease, hailed the study's results.
"We are very excited that the study showed not only that the
clinical signs of disease progression can be slowed but also
that, for the first time, drugs were effective with people in
the moderately severe stages of the disease."
The researchers recommend that patients with moderately
severe Alzheimer's take either high doses of vitamin E --
about 2,000 international units per day, or selegiline. But
don't take a combination of the two, they advised, because
it's less effective.
Both selegiline and high doses of vitamin E carry potential
problems. Selegiline should not be taken with certain
antidepressants and narcotics, and vitamin E may increase the
risk of bleeding in some people, the researchers said.
But of the two, vitamin E is cheaper, doesn't require a
prescription and presents fewer complications. Selegiline is
sold by Somerset Pharmaceuticals under the brand name
It's not clear how vitamin E and selegiline work, although
it's suspected they slow the progression of Alzheimer's by
preventing oxidative damage of brain cells.
Other drugs such as tacrine have been shown to slightly
improve memory and thinking in Alzheimer's patients.
Vitamin E and selegiline may allow patients with moderately
severe Alzheimer's to take care of themselves longer, thus
relieving some of the burden on their families.
But the researchers caution it's too early to recommend these
drugs to patients at other stages of the disease.
Correspondent Eugenia Halsey and Reuters contributed to this report.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.