I commonly admit patients to the hospital who happen to be taking either Aricept or memantine (or both) in an effort to slow the cognitive decline of dementia. Aricept is a cholinesterase inhibitor, abbreviated ChEI below.
A meta-analysis published in November 2018 in JAMA Network suggests that folks taking those drugs have a more rapid cognitive decline compared to those who don’t. Moreover, the rate of decline for those taking memantine, with or without ChEIs, was faster than those receiving ChEIs only or receiving neither medication.
A typical dose of Aricept (donepezil) is 10 mg/day. The average wholesale price for that pill is $20.23 (USD). One brand of memantine is called Namenda, and the usual dose is 10 mg twice daily. Average wholesale dose for that is $17.80/day. Take both those drugs daily for one month and it’s $1,140.90. Or $13,690.80 for a year. And that’s the wholesale price.
I can think of a few better uses of that money.
Admittedly, there must be individual patients that respond better than average to these drug, and some respond worse than average. You can’t tell in advance who those are.
Click the link below for the full study. From the Abstract:
Across 10 studies, of 2714 participants, the mean (SD) age was 75.0 (8.2) years, 58% were female, and 9% were racial/ethnic minorities. There were 906 participants (33.4%) receiving ChEIs, 143 (5.3%) receiving memantine, 923 (34.0%) receiving both, and 742 (27.3%) receiving neither. Meta-analysis showed those receiving ChEIs or memantine were associated with significantly greater annual rate of decline on the ADAS-cog [a test of cognition] than those receiving neither medication (1.4 points/y; 95% CI, 0.1-2.7).
Conclusions and Relevance
Similar to observational studies, many participants in AD clinical trials receiving ChEIs or memantine experience greater cognitive decline. This difference is nearly as large as the hypothesized effect sizes of the treatments investigated in the trials. Concomitant use of ChEIs or memantine may be confounded with outcomes on the ADAS-cog and should be considered in design of clinical trials of potential therapeutic agents for AD. Post hoc analyses stratifying by ChEIs or memantine must be interpreted cautiously given the potential for confounding.
Source: Association of Concomitant Use of Cholinesterase Inhibitors or Memantine With Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer Clinical Trials: A Meta-analysis | Dementia and Cognitive Impairment | JAMA Network Open | JAMA Network
Steve Parker, M.D.
PS: The Mediterranean diet helps prevent or postpone dementia.