The traditional aim of Alzheimer's disease treatment in clinical trials has been to improve cognitive abilities. It has become increasingly clear, however, that other aspects are important in assessing treatment responses. A group of 10 physicians recently gathered to review the current criteria for assessing treatment success in Alzheimer's disease. While cognition has been previously viewed as the primary measure of efficacy, areas such as functional abilities, behaviour, caregiver burden, quality of life and resource utilization all need to be comprehensively assessed to fully evaluate treatment effects in patients with Alzheimer's disease, as well as their impacts on caregivers and society. Postponing or slowing decline in any of these areas may represent an important benefit and should be considered as an outcome measure in clinical trials, clinical practice and decision-making about healthcare budgets. Accepted instruments are available for assessing outcomes in each aspect of Alzheimer's disease, but they need to be selected carefully to provide valid, meaningful data. Some of the most frequently used outcome measures in Alzheimer's disease are reviewed. Using expanded criteria for treatment success and clinically relevant outcome measures, data from currently available studies show that cholinesterase inhibitors produce clinically meaningful long-term benefits in multiple domains in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.