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Original Contribution
June 4, 2003

Effects of Rofecoxib or Naproxen vs Placebo on Alzheimer Disease Progression: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Neurology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC (Dr Aisen); Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego (Ms Schafer and Drs Grundman, Jin, and Thal); Suncoast Gerontology Center, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa (Dr Pfeiffer); Department of Psychiatry (Dr Sano), Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center (Dr Davis), New York, NY; Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Indiana University, Indianapolis (Dr Farlow); Departments of Family and Preventive Medicine and Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego (Dr Thomas).

JAMA. 2003;289(21):2819-2826. doi:10.1001/jama.289.21.2819

Context Laboratory evidence that inflammatory mechanisms contribute to neuronal injury in Alzheimer disease (AD), along with epidemiological evidence, suggests that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may favorably influence the course of the disease.

Objective To determine whether treatment with a selective cyclooxygenase (COX) -2 inhibitor (rofecoxib) or a traditional nonselective NSAID (naproxen) slows cognitive decline in patients with mild-to-moderate AD.

Design Multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group trial, with 1-year exposure to study medications.

Setting Forty ambulatory treatment centers affiliated with the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study consortium.

Participants Participants with mild-to-moderate AD (Mini-Mental State Examination score of 13-26) were recruited from December 1999 to November 2000 using clinic populations, referrals from community physicians, and local advertising. Stable use of cholinesterase inhibitors, estrogen, low-dose aspirin, and vitamin E was allowed. Participants with inflammatory diseases that might respond to the study medications were excluded. Of 474 participants screened, 351 were enrolled.

Interventions Once-daily rofecoxib, 25 mg, or twice-daily naproxen sodium, 220 mg, or placebo.

Main Outcome Measures The primary outcome measure was the 1-year change in the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) subscale score. Secondary outcome measures included the Clinical Dementia Rating scale sum-of-boxes, the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, the Quality of Life-AD, and the time to attainment of significant end points (4-point decline from baseline ADAS-Cog score, 1-step worsening on the global Clinical Dementia Rating scale, 15-point decline on the ADCS activities of daily living inventory, institutionalization, or death).

Results The 1-year mean (SD) change in ADAS-Cog scores in participants treated with naproxen (5.8 [8.0]) or rofecoxib (7.6 [7.7]) was not significantly different from the change in participants treated with placebo (5.7 [8.2]). Results of secondary analyses showed no consistent benefit of either treatment. Fatigue, dizziness, and hypertension were more commonly reported in the active drug groups, and more serious adverse events were found in the active treatment group than in the placebo group.

Conclusion The results of this study indicate that rofecoxib or low-dose naproxen does not slow cognitive decline in patients with mild-to-moderate AD.