As reported in the Sept. 12 issue of the journal Neurology, the study of 134 patients at 19 centres across the United States found that severely impaired patients who took the drug for 12 weeks had significantly improved attention and verbal memory test scores compared to patients who took a placebo.
In one test, 30% of patients taking rivastigmine remembered five or more additional words, compared to 10% of patients taking the placebo. The researchers said that the drug is believed to enhance the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in memory and learning.
While the drug improved memory in patients with moderate to severe memory problems, it was less effective in patients with milder memory loss.
More research required
"The beneficial effect of rivastigmine may not become apparent unless there is significant depletion of cholinergic activity in relevant brain regions causing a more profound impairment in memory or attention," study lead author Dr Jonathan M. Silver of the New York School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.
"This is an area where more research will be required to confirm these findings and to better define who may have the best response with rivastigmine," he said.
Side effects among patients taking the drug included nausea, upper respiratory tract infection, headache, dizziness and vomiting. -(HealthDayNews, September 2006)
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