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 dementia. 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 behavior. 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 www.stroke.org.
SOURCE National Stroke Association