Evaluating Prescription Drugs Used to Treat:
Comparing Effectiveness, Safety, and Price
The medicines used to slow mental decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease are not particularly effective. When compared to a placebo, only 10% to 20% more people taking an Alzheimer’s drug seem to benefit at all. And it is the rare person who has a significant delay in the worsening of their symptoms over time. However, there is no way as yet to predict who will respond and who will get little or no benefit from one of the five drugs approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, the decision to try one is a gamble and judgment based on whether the treatment is worth the cost and the risk of side effects. Cost. Averaging about $148 to $195 a month, the Alzheimer’s disease drugs are costly and may not be worth it if the patient has to take many other medicines. This is true even if insurance or Medicare coverage helps pay since out-of-pocket payments can still be quite steep. Side effects. While the long-term adverse effects of the Alzheimer’s drugs have not been fully evaluated, short-term side effects are either mild or reversible when a person stops taking the medicine. On this basis, many people with Alzheimer’s disease may opt to try one of the drugs for six months to a year to see if it helps. We advise close scrutiny of the patient’s response by both family and physician. Based on the evidence of their effectiveness, side effects, tolerability, flexibility of use, and cost, we have chosen the following as Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease: Donepezil (Aricept) – for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease Galantamine (Razadyne) – for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease Memantine (Namenda) – for people with middle-stage and late-stage Alzheimer’s disease Aricept’s and Razadyne’s lower risk of adverse effects and higher tolerability justify their choice. We choose Namenda because it is the only drug approved by the FDA to treat people with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. It also acts differently in the body than the other drugs and because of that can be taken in addition to them. That could be an advantage, but we caution that studies have not yet conclusively established whether such combination treatment is better than treatment with one drug alone.
Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs
This report compares the effectiveness, safety, and cost of medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. It is part of a Consumers Union and Consumer Reports project to help you find medicines that are safe and effective and give you the most value for your health care dollar. To learn more about the project and other drugs we’ve evaluated for other diseases and conditions, please go to www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, the medical term for a decline in memory, thinking, decision-making, and reasoning. It and other dementias affect about 8 million people in the U.S, including 40% to 50% of people age 85 and over. In 2004, an estimated 4.5 million people had Alzheimer’s disease. That number is projected to almost triple to 13.2 million by 2050 as the baby boomers move into their senior years. Despite years of research, no one knows exactly what causes the damage to brain cells, structure, and function that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Recent research indicates that your chance of developing Alzheimer’s is strongly genetic – that is, it tends to run in families and you inherit a tendency to get it. However, that does not mean you will get it even if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s. Studies suggest, for example, that regular physical and mental activity that keeps your mind engaged – such as doing crossword puzzles or playing bridge – as well as strong social ties and personal relationships, may help to prevent its onset. People with high blood...
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