Alzheimer's disease, dementia not helped by estrogen drug raloxifene: study

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Nov 05, 2015 07:00 AM EST

A new study has dismissed the role of the estrogen drug Raloxifene in the improvement of the memory and thinking skills of women who were suffering from dementia brought about by Alzheimer's disease. This is contrary to a previous study suggesting that the drug may lower the risk of cognitive impairment or dementia.

The new findings were published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, for its Nov. 4, 2015 online issue, according to a public release at EurekAlert.

Raloxifene is a kind of drug that can function just like an estrogen in some parts of the body. It is considered as a selective estrogen receptor modulator. It could serve as an estrogen blocker in the uterus and breasts, and may also help in preventing bone loss after menopause.

"Drugs that interact with estrogen receptors have attracted a great deal of interest as a potential treatment for women with dementia due to Alzheimer's disease, but relatively small studies of estrogen have generally failed to confirm any benefit," said study author Victor Henderson, MD, MS, with Stanford University in Stanford, California, and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. "Prior to this study, Raloxifene had not been evaluated as an Alzheimer treatment."

The research team for this study made an assessment on the memory and other mental functions of 42 women with an average age of 76 with mild to moderate dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. They record their observation at the start of the trial and every three months thereafter for a period of one year. These participants were also separated in two groups in which one was given Raloxifene and the other with a placebo pill. They were also evaluated on how well they could complete daily activities. The family members or caregivers of the patients were also asked about their caregiver burden and stress at the start, middle and end of the study.

"We found that the drug did not have any significant effect on patients after one year," Henderson said. "If there are cognitive effects in this population, these effects are likely to be no more than small. These results may be valuable if future trials of raloxifene are considered."

According to a HealthDay article, there are about 5 million Americans who are affected with Alzheimer's disease and not all were diagnosed, based on the data of the Alzheimer's Association. What's more intriguing is that two-thirds of the number are women.

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