Medications used for Alzheimer's disease appear to improve alertness, attentiveness, and memory performance in people with mild cognitive impairment. There is also evidence that they have the potential to forestall progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease, at least temporarily.
In a study of 269 people with mild cognitive impairment, 61 percent of those who took donepezil for six months had improved memory function compared with 50 percent of patients in a placebo control group. In 2004 a Mayo Clinic study of 769 people with mild cognitive impairment reported that those who took donepezil for eighteen months were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those taking either vitamin E or a placebo. After eighteen months, however, the likelihood of converting to Alzheimer's disease was the same for all three groups. Donepezil seemed to delay the onset of Alzheimer's by about six months. Rivastigmine has yielded similar results in recent research.
Medications that have been used to boost levels of the neuro-transmitter dopamine in the treatment of Parkinson's disease are also being investigated for treating mild cognitive impairment. Such drugs are used in other countries but are not yet approved for this specific indication in the United States. Clinical trials have found that one such drug, called piribedil (Trivastal), slowed cognitive decline for at least several months.
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