The term “dementia” describes a collection of symptoms including confusion, disorientation, apathy, and memory loss. More than 60 disorders can...
Ergoloid mesylates was first marketed in the United States in November 1953. Over the years this drug has been misleadingly promoted and advertised as effective treatment for “those who would be considered to suffer from some ill-defined process related to aging” and as “the only product for Alzheimer’s dementia.” The reality is very different.
The term “dementia” describes a collection of symptoms including confusion, disorientation, apathy, and memory loss. More than 60 disorders can cause dementia. Alzheimer’s dementia, which is not reversible, accounts for about 50 to 60% of the cases of dementia. A smaller percentage of dementias are reversible.
A 1990 study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, shows ergoloid mesylates to be totally ineffective for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, and to actually accelerate patients’ mental deterioration. This study was more carefully designed than previous research showing ergoloid mesylates to be effective. Potential participants underwent a rigorous evaluation at the start of the study to screen out those patients whose dementia was due to a medical or psychiatric problem other than Alzheimer’s. More patients were studied (39 took ergoloid mesylates, and 41 took placebo), and the trial was continued for longer (24 weeks) than most previous studies.
Subjects taking Hydergine LC, at the recommended dose of one milligram three times daily, did worse than the control group on one measure of appropriate behavior and one measure of IQ. The authors said that the drug may either be directly toxic to the brain or somehow accelerate the progression of Alzheimer’s.
A 1991 review on geriatric medicine published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that “one widely used treatment [for Alzheimer’s] (ergoloid mesylates) has been convincingly demonstrated to be of no value. This trial [referring to the study discussed above], along with the absence of a convincing pathophysiologic basis for its use, indicates that this treatment should be abandoned.”
Ergoloid mesylates remain on a well-recognized list of drugs that are inappropriate for use in older adults.
A person showing signs of dementia should be completely tested to see whether he or she is suffering from one of the dementias that can be cured. These tests include complete physical, neurological, and psychiatric examinations as well as a chest X-ray, CT scan, and blood tests. In addition, many cases of dementia are caused or worsened by prescription drugs such as Sleeping Pills and Tranquilizers. If you are taking one of these drugs, ask your doctor about stopping or changing your prescription.
If, after testing, a physician determines that a person has Alzheimer’s dementia, a health care team—including a doctor, a nurse, and a social worker experienced in working with dementia—can offer practical suggestions to increase the person’s safety and comfort at home, and can discuss alternative care options. Efforts to improve the mental and physical state of older or senile adults are most beneficial if they address social, physical, nutritional, psychological, occupational, and recreational needs.