This study was designed to assess the effects of rivastigmine (Exelon®) on the cognitive functioning of patients suffering from dementia with Lewy bodies. This was a prospective, multi-centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled exploratory study conducted at sites in the UK, Spain and Italy. The treatment period was 20 weeks with a 3-week posttreatment follow-up. The primary outcome measures were the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) computerised assessment system and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. Testing was conducted prior to dosing and then again at weeks 12, 20 and 23. Analysis of the data from the 92 patients who completed the study identified a significant pattern of benefits of rivastigmine over placebo on the CDR system. These benefits were seen on tests of attention, working memory and episodic secondary memory. Taking attention for example, patients given placebo showed a significant deterioration from predosing scores at 12 and 20 weeks, whereas patients on rivastigmine performed significantly above their predosing levels. These effects were also large in magnitude, the decline under placebo at week 12 being 19%, while the improvement under rivastigmine was 23%. The clinical relevance of this 23% improvement was that it took the patients 33% towards being normal for their age on this assessment of attention. These benefits to cognitive function were accompanied by a significant improvement of the other primary outcome measure, the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. Three weeks after discontinuation of rivastigmine, most parameters of cognitive performance returned to predrug levels.
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