INTRODUCTION: Progressive language impairment is among the primary components of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Because expressive and receptive language help to maintain emotional connections to caregivers and support the management of AD patients' functional needs, language plays a critical role in patients' emotional and physical health. Using data from a large prospective clinical trial comparing two doses of donepezil in patients with moderate to severe AD, we performed a post hoc analysis to determine whether a higher dose of donepezil was associated with greater benefits in language function.

METHODS: In the original randomized, double-blind clinical trial, 1,467 patients with moderate to severe AD (baseline Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score 0 to 20) were randomized 2:1 to receive donepezil 23 mg/day or to continue on donepezil 10 mg/day for 24 weeks. In this post hoc analysis, the Severe Impairment Battery-Language scale (SIB-L) and a new 21-item SIB-derived language scale (SIB[lang]) were used to explore differences in language function between the treatment groups. Correlations between SIB-L and SIB[lang] scores and scores on the severe version of the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study-Activities of Daily Living inventory (ADCS-ADL-sev), the Clinician's Interview-Based Impression of Severity-plus caregiver input/Clinician's Interview-Based Impression of Change-plus caregiver input (CIBIS-plus/CIBIC-plus) and the MMSE were also investigated.

RESULTS: At week 24, treatment with donepezil 23 mg/day was associated with an improvement in language in the full intention-to-treat population, whereas language function declined in the group treated with donepezil 10 mg/day (SIB-L treatment difference 0.8, P = 0.0013; SIB[lang] treatment difference 0.8, P = 0.0009). Similar results were observed in a cohort of patients with more severe baseline disease (MMSE score 0 to 16). At baseline and week 24, correlations between the SIB-derived language scales and the ADCS-ADL-sev and CIBIC-plus were moderate, but the correlations were stronger between the language scales and the MMSE scores.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with moderate to severe AD receiving donepezil 23 mg/day showed greater language benefits than those receiving donepezil 10 mg/day as measured by SIB-derived language assessments. Increasing the dose of donepezil to 23 mg/day may provide language benefits in patients with moderate to severe AD, for whom preservation of language abilities is especially critical.

ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00478205.

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Published in Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, v. 3, 22.

© 2011 Ferris et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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