Galantamine, a natural substance found in plants, has been shown to help treat Alzheimer's sufferers, but new evidence suggests that it may also be effective in fighting the symptoms of vascular dementia.
An article published in the 13 April edition of the British journal The Lancet cites research led by Dr Timo Erkinjuntti of Helsinki University Central Hospital who focused on patients suffering from dementia and with evidence of cerebrovascular disease.
Some 239 of the patients were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, while 188 were diagnosed with vascular dementia. The remaining subjects received intermediate diagnoses.
Erkinjuntti's team gave 24mg/day of galantamine to 396 of the patients, while a further 196 received a placebo. The supplemented group showed a marked improvement in cognitive function over a six month period when compared to the control group.
Patients in the galantamine group who were diagnosed with vascular dementia showed a mean improvement in Alzheimer's disease assessment scale cognitive subscale scores of 2.4 points, compared with a mean improvement of 0.4 points for the placebo group. Patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease showed a 1.0 point improvement after galantamine supplementation, while those given the placebo deteriorated by 1.8 points.
Erkinjuntti concluded that the supplement was "equally effective in dementia due to Alzheimer's disease and in dementia due to cerebrovascular disease," although not everyone agreed with this claim.
Writing in an editorial in The Lancet, Dr Lon S. Schneider of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles claimed that the interpretation of the findings was erroneous. "It is incorrect to imply that because the overall comparison of the cognitive benefits of treatment...is similar in statistical magnitude to that observed in other trials in Alzheimer's disease, that the effects of galantamine are equivalent in both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia."
He said that the benefit of treatment in Alzheimer's disease patients was derived from a slowing of decline, while in vascular dementia patients it represented an absolute improvement from baseline.