A systematic review of the clinical effectiveness of donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine on cognition, quality of life and adverse events in Alzheimer's disease

A Takeda, E Loveman, A Clegg, J Kirby, J Picot, E Payne, C Green
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 2006, 21 (1): 17-28

BACKGROUND: The use of cholinesterase inhibitors for Alzheimer's disease (AD) is currently being appraised by the National Institute for Clinical Evidence (NICE). This article provides the latest evidence that NICE will be using as part of this appraisal process.

OBJECTIVE: To provide a systematic review of the best quality evidence of the effects of donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine on cognition, quality of life and adverse events in people with mild to moderately-severe AD.

DESIGN: Electronic databases were searched, references of all retrieved articles were checked, and experts were contacted for advice, peer review and to identify additional references. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were included if they fulfilled pre-specified criteria. Data were synthesised through a narrative review.

RESULTS: Twenty-six RCTs that compared any one of the cholinesterase inhibitors with either a control group or with another cholinesterase inhibitor were included. The quality of reporting and methodology was varied. Treatment with donepezil, rivastigmine or galantamine resulted in significantly better cognitive performance using the ADAS-cog scale when compared with placebo. These findings were generally supported using the MMSE scale. Results from head to head comparisons were limited by the low number of studies and the study quality; generally showing no robust support for any one drug. Few studies evaluated quality of life. Adverse events were generally related to the gastrointestinal system, with a tendency for these to be more common in the treatment arms.

CONCLUSIONS: The cholinesterase inhibitors donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine can delay cognitive impairment in patients with mild to moderately-severe AD for at least 6 months duration.

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