P&S Journal: Fall 1997, Vol.17, No.3
Vitamin E May Delay Effects of Alzheimer's
Selegiline (Eldepryl) and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) may delay important functional signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease by about seven months, according to a report by scientists at P&S and 23 Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) sites in the United States. The two drugs delayed important milestones, such as entry into nursing homes, for people with moderately severe Alzheimer's disease and decreased their loss of daily activities, including bathing, dressing, and handling money, by about 25 percent.
Principal investigator Dr. Mary Sano, associate professor of clinical neuropsychology; Dr. Leon J. Thal, principal investigator of the ADCS; and colleagues reported their findings in the April 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, the longest clinical trial to test drugs for slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease, was funded by the National Institute on Aging.
"We looked at the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease that can worsen over time and found that in patients taking these drugs, these signs occurred later," says Dr. Sano. "Physicians may want to think about using either selegiline or vitamin E in patients with moderately severe disease, like those in our study. The drugs may benefit certain patients by delaying some aspects of the deterioration that comes with the disease. Of course, potential side effects and drug interactions need to be considered as well."
Beyond their significance for patients, the findings are important in understanding the factors involved in the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers exploring the idea that oxidative damage may play a role in Alzheimer's disease theorize that drugs such as selegiline and alpha-tocopherol keep oxidative damage of brain cells at bay and therefore may be effective in reducing symptoms of the disease.