Background: Although non-drug interventions are widely used in patients with Alzheimer's disease, few large scale randomized trials involving a long-term intervention and several cognitive-oriented approaches have been carried out. ETNA3 trial compares the effect of cognitive training, reminiscence therapy, and an individualized cognitive rehabilitation program in Alzheimer's disease to usual care.
Methods: This is a multicenter (40 French clinical sites) randomized, parallel-group trial, with a two-year follow-up comparing groups receiving standardized programs of cognitive training (group sessions), reminiscence therapy (group sessions), individualized cognitive rehabilitation program (individual sessions), and usual care (reference group). Six hundred fifty-three outpatients with Alzheimer's disease were recruited. The primary efficacy outcome was the rate of survival without moderately severe to severe dementia at two years. Secondary outcomes were cognitive impairment, functional disability, behavioral disturbance, apathy, quality of life, depression, caregiver's burden, and resource utilization.
Results: No impact on the primary efficacy measure was evidenced. For the two group interventions (i.e. cognitive training and reminiscence), none of the secondary outcomes differed from usual care. The larger effect was seen with individualized cognitive rehabilitation in which significantly lower functional disability and a six-month delay in institutionalization at two years were evidenced.
Conclusions: These findings challenge current management practices of Alzheimer's patients. While cognitive-oriented group therapies have gained popularity, this trial does not show improvement for the patients. The individualized cognitive rehabilitation intervention provided clinically significant results. Individual interventions should be considered to delay institutionalization in Alzheimer's disease.
Keywords: Alzheimer; cognitive training; dementia; individualized cognitive rehabilitation; non-drug therapies; reminiscence.