Giving Alzheimer’s drugs to people with early memory problems does not seem to delay the onset of the disease, researchers said on Tuesday.
Three main drugs — Aricept, or donepezil; Exelon, or rivastigmine; and Reminyl, or galantamine — are currently approved for use in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.They are also often prescribed on a so-called “off-label” basis to people with pre-dementia.
But doctors are divided over their effectiveness, leading to differing rates of use and bitter arguments over patient access to treatment, notably in Britain where a dispute over their cost-effectiveness has led to legal clashes.
I have taken care of many people who were living with dementia. Their loved ones were uniformly in favor of and even desperate in their search for something that could change the course of the disease. I was always under pressure (all doctors are) to prescribe these drugs. The pressure comes from other doctors (peer pressure if you will) , family members, patients themselves and most especially from the drug companies that make these products.
The problem is that, outside of a small number of exceptional circumstances, the drugs listed above are largely ineffective and expose patients to substantial and sometimes dangerous side effects.
Having said that, I guess I can forget about Big Pharma sending me a nice fat check!