Context: Several reports from small clinical trials have suggested that estrogen replacement therapy may be useful for the treatment of Alzheimer disease (AD) in women.
Objective: To determine whether estrogen replacement therapy affects global, cognitive, or functional decline in women with mild to moderate AD.
Design: The Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial conducted between October 1995 and January 1999.
Setting: Thirty-two study sites in the United States.
Participants: A total of 120 women with mild to moderate AD and a Mini-Mental State Examination score between 12 and 28 who had had a hysterectomy.
Interventions: Participants were randomized to estrogen, 0.625 mg/d (n = 42), or 1.25 mg/d (n = 39), or to identically appearing placebo (n = 39). One subject withdrew after randomization but before receiving medication; 97 subjects completed the trial.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was change on the Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) 7-point scale, analyzed by intent to treat; secondary outcome measures included other global measures as well as measures of mood, specific cognitive domains (memory, attention, and language), motor function, and activities of daily living; compared by the combined estrogen groups vs the placebo group at 2, 6, 12, and 15 months of follow-up.
Results: The CGIC score for estrogen vs placebo was 5.1 vs 5.0 (P = .43); 80% of participants taking estrogen vs 74% of participants taking placebo worsened (P = .48). Secondary outcome measures also showed no significant differences, with the exception of the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale, which suggested worsening among patients taking estrogen (mean posttreatment change in score for estrogen, 0.5 vs 0.2 for placebo; P = .01).
Conclusions: Estrogen replacement therapy for 1 year did not slow disease progression nor did it improve global, cognitive, or functional outcomes in women with mild to moderate AD. The study does not support the role of estrogen for the treatment of this disease. The potential role of estrogen in the prevention of AD, however, requires further research.