Research Results Hold Promise for Stroke Survivors With Dementia

May 05, 2004, 01:00 ET from National Stroke Association

    ENGLEWOOD, Colo., May 5 /PRNewswire/ -- A well-known medication used to
 treat Alzheimer's disease has shown continued benefits for at least 12 months
 for stroke survivors experiencing the deterioration of thinking abilities
 caused by stroke or multiple strokes, also called vascular dementia (VaD)
 according to one recent study.
     Researchers reported this week at the American Psychiatric Association
 meeting the results of a study using the drug Aricept(R) (donepezil
 hydrochloride) with 453 patients diagnosed with VaD.  The study was designed
 to determine if the drug was safe and effective long-term (one year) and could
 help maintain or improve the memory loss and cognitive function that can be
 caused by VaD.  The results indicated that patients receiving Aricept(R)
 sustained their cognitive function, which was measured by their Alzheimer's
 Disease Assessment Scale cognitive scores.
     National Stroke Association (NSA) is optimistic about the findings and
 hopes further research will show the same promising results.
     "The finding of sustained memory benefit for stroke survivors at 12 months
 with the drug Aricept(R) strengthens the evidence that benefits of Aricept(R)
 may apply in an even more important manner in stroke survivors compared to
 Alzheimer patients," said Dr. Dan Hanley, Chairman of the National Stroke
 Association Professional Advisory Committee and professor of neurology at
 Johns Hopkins Hospital.
     VaD, a decline in intellectual abilities such as memory and
 decision-making, occurs when brain tissue is damaged by reduced blood flow to
 the brain, most commonly by a stroke or series of strokes.  The brain cells
 have difficulty working together to process information.  This can lead to
 memory loss, confusion, and decreased attention span, in addition to problems
 with activities of daily living.
     The occurrence of VaD increases with age, and many experts estimate that
 approximately 10 to 20 percent of Americans over age 65 experiencing dementia
 have VaD, making it second only to Alzheimer's disease as a leading cause of
     Several of the risk factors for VaD are the same as for stroke, including
 high blood pressure, history of previous stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and
 high cholesterol levels.
     Sometimes, the dementia can come on abruptly as the result of a single
 stroke, depending on the location and size of damaged brain area.  In other
 instances, the onset of VaD is so gradual that healthcare providers may have
 difficulty distinguishing it from Alzheimer's disease.
     Patients with VaD often deteriorate in a step-wise manner, with symptoms
 becoming greater with each new stroke.  Symptoms may include: memory loss,
 confusion, mood swings and personality changes, difficulty planning and
 organizing tasks, language problems, difficulty paying attention or following
 a conversation, impaired motor skills, visual orientation problems, difficulty
 with calculations, making decisions, solving problems or depression-like
     Currently, there are no medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
 Administration (FDA) available for the treatment of VaD.  The current
 treatment strategies focus on reducing the risk of additional strokes, or
 prevention of stroke.
     More research is needed to determine if Aricept(R) is safe for patients
 with stroke-related dementia and effective in helping maintain or improve
 cognitive function in that group.
     Based in Englewood, Colo., National Stroke Association is a leading
 independent national non-profit organization devoting 100 percent of its
 efforts and resources to stroke prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and
 support for stroke survivors and their families.  For more information on NSA
 programs, call 1-800-STROKES (1-800-787-6537) or visit

SOURCE National Stroke Association