Objective: The authors evaluated the effects of donepezil (10 mg/day) versus placebo on brain glucose metabolism.
Methods: This was a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, 24-week pilot study in 28 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer disease (AD). Functional brain activity was quantified by measuring average glucose metabolism in an axial brain slice and regional brain glucose metabolism using positron emission tomography.
Results: At Week 24, relative to the pons metabolic rate, mean brain glucose metabolism in an axial slice at the level of the striatum was maintained within 0.5% of mean baseline levels for donepezil-treated patients, whereas it declined by an average of 10.4% in placebo-treated patients. This observation was confirmed by an analysis of differences in the mean slopes of glucose metabolism in the striatal slice in donepezil- and placebo-treated patients during the 24-week period. Significant treatment differences at Week 24 favoring donepezil for the mean percentage change from baseline in regional brain glucose metabolism were observed in four predefined regions of interest: the right parietal lobe 1, left temporal lobe 2, right frontal lobe 2, and left frontal lobe 2.
Conclusion: Placebo-treated patients with AD show a decline in functional brain activity, relative to the pons, in several regions, and treatment with donepezil may slow this decline.