Swedish study gives hope for Alzheimers patients

A Swedish study is to be presented at a conference in Sorrento, Italy, on Friday, which shows that Alzheimers patients could benefit significantly from a new drug called Aricept. Aricept is one of three drugs on the market which claims to slow the progress of of the disease. Although a recent British study of the same drug came to a markedly different conclusion, the Swedish team is confident of the validity of their results.

The so-called Sats Study was lead by Lennart Minton, head of the Neuropsychiatric Clinic at the UMAS hospital in Malmö. Twelve research centres in Sweden participated and they followed a total of 435 patients over three years.

The patients’ condition was measured using a memory test at the start of the study and after three years. Minton explained what his results show:

“Normally untreated patients deteriorate by 6 to 12 points in the memory test over three years. Our patients deteriorated on average by 3 to 4 points.”

The recent British study of Aricept concluded that it was not sufficiently cost effective and recommended against its use. Although the British study also lasted three years, there were some important differences.

The British study, which looked at 565 patients, used a control group which took a placebo to compare patients taking Aricept with. However, it was criticised for a number of shortcomings, including its selection of patients. The Swedish study had no control group, and instead compared their results with previous studies of untreated Alzheimers patients.

But Minton feels his results are still valid as the Sats study was less selective in the patients it included:

“We’ve followed completely normal patients, irrespective of whether they have other conditions or not. Patients clearly improved and can live at home longer.”

The study showed that patients who either improve or are unchanged as a result of the medicine can live at home twice as long as those who deteriorate. Currently, the annual cost of someone living in a nursing home is 500,000 crowns, compared to 100,000 for someone living at home with help from social services, and 10,000 crowns for someone living at home without home help.

According to Minton, the annual cost of caring for Alzheimers patients is 40 billion kronor – more than for cancer, coronary artery disease and stroke combined.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Sydsvenskan