The purpose of the study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of tacrine over 30 weeks in Chinese patients with probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A total of 100 patients with mild to moderate AD were recruited and randomly assigned to active or placebo treatment. The active group received 30 mg/day of tacrine for the first 6 weeks, 60 mg/day for the next 6 weeks, 90 mg/day for 6 more weeks and then 120 mg/day for the remaining 12 weeks. Safety evaluations included biweekly determinations of alanine aminotransferase (ALT). The primary outcome measures were Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI), Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) by investigator and the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE). Secondary outcome measures were Mini-mental State Examination (MMSE), Alzheimer’s Deficit Scale (ADS) and CGIC by caregivers. Sixty-eight patients were included in an intent-to-treat analysis (48 active and 20 placebo); 56 patients had evaluable data at week 30 (36 active and 20 placebo). The results of the complete case analysis revealed a significant improvement in the CASI and MMSE scores of the active group in the 18th week (90 mg/day) and the 30th week (120 mg/day) (p < 0.01). In the intent-to-treat analysis, significant improvement of the active group was noted on CASI at week 30 (p = 0.05), but there was no significant difference in the measures of IQCODE, CGIC and ADS. The primary reasons for withdrawal of tacrine-treated patients (39 patients, 52%) were asymptomatic ALT elevation, anorexia and nausea/vomiting. These patients all recovered from the adverse events on discontinuation of treatment. Tacrine produced a statistically significant improvement in the CASI and MMSE in Chinese patients with mild to moderate AD using a lower dose than in western people.
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