That’s according to a study involving 14 Veterans Administration hospitals, including the William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison. Results of the largest and longest such clinical trial (four years) were released today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Dr. Sanjay Asthana led the study.
Dr. Sanjay Asthana was the principal investigator of the Madison trial and a member of the executive committee that designed and oversaw the execution of the trial.
He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), medical director of the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) of the Madison VA Hospital, and a professor of medicine (geriatrics) at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Asthana said 31 of the study’s 561 patients came from the Madison VA hospital. All participants were taking prescribed Alzheimer’s treatments such as donepezil and galantamine.
All had mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The patients were divided into four groups that received one of the following treatments from six months to four years:
- 2000 IU/day of vitamin E
- 20 mg/day of memantine, a medication that was shown to have positive but modest results in improving symptoms of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s
- A combination of vitamin E and memantine
The results showed the vitamin E group had 25 percent less decline in daily-living activities caused by their Alzheimer’s compared to the placebo group. Statistics were based on questionnaires filled out by caregivers during the four-year period.
Those in the memantine and vitamin E-memantine groups did not see similar reduction in the progression of the disease. The results also showed that caregiver time provided to the vitamin E group was reduced by an average of two hours per day.
Asthana suggested this study disputes earlier findings that vitamin E may cause falls, fainting or excessive bleeding in Alzheimer’s patients who are on blood thinners.
“Based on the evidence, vitamin E is safe in patients taking a prescribed treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” Asthana said. “Vitamin E also slows progression of disease symptoms, and reduces the work and pressure on the part of caregivers. Those things have not been shown in any other clinical trial before and will likely result in several benefits, including better care of patients with Alzheimer’s, cost savings and reduced chances of admission to a nursing home.”
Asthana believes the results of this study may lead to vitamin E becoming part of future Alzheimer’s treatment and research.
“Vitamin E could be part of ongoing studies concerning amyloid proteins in the brain and their connection to Alzheimer’s, as well as its ability to either stop or reduce risk for the disease,” he said. “I believe it will become important in future trials.”
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health