Disease progression meta-analysis model in Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimers Dement. 2010 Jan;6(1):39-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2009.05.665. Epub 2009 Jul 9.


Background: Various authors have evaluated disease progression in Alzheimer's disease (AD), using patient data from individual clinical studies or pooled data across various trials. We conducted a systematic review of public data sources from 1990 to 2008 for all available AChE inhibitor studies, as well as clinical studies that evaluated the rate of deterioration in AD patients. Unique to this analysis, we developed a model based on literature data to describe the longitudinal response in the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive (ADAS-cog) (change from baseline) in mild to moderate severity AD patients. The model was used to estimate disease progression for both placebo-treated patients and acetylcholinesterase (AChE)-inhibitor treated patients, and factors that affected disease progression.

Methods: We collected 576 mean ADAS-cog changes from baseline data points of 52 trials, representing data from approximately 19,972 patients and more than 84,000 individual observations. The model described the rate of disease progression, the evident placebo effect, and the symptomatic effect of AChE-inhibitors. Baseline ADAS-cog, Mini-Mental State Examination score, age, and year of publication were tested as covariates.

Results: The disease progression in mild to moderate AD patients across all available and relevant literature sources was estimated as 5.5 points per year. An Emax-type model best described the symptomatic drug effect of AChE inhibitors. The rate of disease progression (underlying disease progression) was no different between placebo and AChE-inhibitors groups. Baseline ADAS-cog is a significant covariate in disease progression. Baseline age was also tested as a covariate in the rate of disease progression, but the model was unable to describe any effects of age, likely because of the narrow distribution of mean age (literature-level analysis). There was no significant impact of publication year in the model.

Conclusions: Baseline ADAS-cog is a significant covariate affecting the rate of disease progression, and it describes or at least explains the different rates of deterioration evident in early or late stages of the disease. There was no significant impact of publication year in the model, suggesting that disease progression has not slowed in more recent trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / complications*
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Neuropsychological Tests


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors