No evidence of carcinogenic potential was obtained in an 88-week carcinogenicity study of donepezil conducted in mice at oral doses up to 180 mg/kg/day (approximately 86 times the maximum recommended human dose [MRHD] of 10 mg/day on a mg/m2 basis), or in a 104-week carcinogenicity study in rats at oral doses up to 30 mg/kg/day (approximately 29 times the MRHD on a mg/m2 basis).
Donepezil was negative in a battery of genotoxicity assays (in vitro bacterial reverse mutation, in vitro mouse lymphoma tk , in vitro chromosomal aberration, and in vivo mouse micronucleus).
Donepezil had no effect on fertility in rats at oral doses up to 10 mg/kg/day (approximately 10 times the MRHD on a mg/m2 basis) when administered to males and females prior to and during mating and continuing in females through implantation.
In an acute dose neurotoxicity study in female rats, oral administration of donepezil and memantine in combination resulted in increased incidence, severity, and distribution of neurodegeneration compared with memantine alone. The no-effect levels of the combination were associated with clinically relevant plasma donepezil and memantine levels.
The relevance of this finding to humans is unknown.
The effectiveness of donepezil hydrochloride as a treatment for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease is demonstrated by the results of two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical investigations in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (diagnosed by NINCDS and DSM III-R criteria, Mini-Mental State Examination ≥ 10 and ≤ 26 and Clinical Dementia Rating of 1 or 2). The mean age of patients participating in donepezil hydrochloride trials was 73 years with a range of 50 to 94. Approximately 62% of patients were women and 38% were men. The racial distribution was white 95%, black 3% and other races 2%.
The higher dose of 10 mg did not provide a statistically significantly greater clinical benefit than 5 mg. There is a suggestion, however, based upon order of group mean scores and dose trend analyses of data from these clinical trials, that a daily dose of 10 mg of donepezil hydrochloride might provide additional benefit for some patients. Accordingly, whether or not to employ a dose of 10 mg is a matter of prescriber and patient preference.
Study Outcome Measures
In each study, the effectiveness of treatment with donepezil hydrochloride was evaluated using a dual outcome assessment strategy.
The ability of donepezil hydrochloride to improve cognitive performance was assessed with the cognitive subscale of the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog), a multi-item instrument that has been extensively validated in longitudinal cohorts of Alzheimer’s disease patients. The ADAS-cog examines selected aspects of cognitive performance including elements of memory, orientation, attention, reasoning, language and praxis. The ADAS-cog scoring range is from 0 to 70, with higher scores indicating greater cognitive impairment. Elderly normal adults may score as low as 0 or 1, but it is not unusual for non-demented adults to score slightly higher.
The patients recruited as participants in each study had mean scores on the ADAS-cog of approximately 26 points, with a range from 4 to 61. Experience based on longitudinal studies of ambulatory patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease suggest that scores on the ADAS-cog increase (worsen) by 6 – 12 points per year. However, smaller changes may be seen in patients with very mild or very advanced disease since the ADAS-cog is not uniformly sensitive to change over the course of the disease. The annualized rate of decline in the placebo patients participating in donepezil hydrochloride trials was approximately 2 to 4 points per year.
The ability of donepezil hydrochloride to produce an overall clinical effect was assessed using a Clinician’s Interview-Based Impression of Change that required the use of caregiver information, the CIBIC-plus. The CIBIC-plus is not a single instrument and is not a standardized instrument like the ADAS-cog. Clinical trials for investigational drugs have used a variety of CIBIC formats, each different in terms of depth and structure.
As such, results from a CIBIC-plus reflect clinical experience from the trial or trials in which it was used and cannot be compared directly with the results of CIBIC-plus evaluations from other clinical trials. The CIBIC-plus used in donepezil hydrochloride trials was a semi-structured instrument that was intended to examine four major areas of patient function: General, Cognitive, Behavioral and Activities of Daily Living. It represents the assessment of a skilled clinician based upon his/her observations at an interview with the patient, in combination with information supplied by a caregiver familiar with the behavior of the patient over the interval rated. The CIBIC-plus is scored as a seven-point categorical rating, ranging from a score of 1, indicating “markedly improved,” to a score of 4, indicating “no change” to a score of 7, indicating “markedly worse.” The CIBIC-plus has not been systematically compared directly to assessments not using information from caregivers (CIBIC) or other global methods.
In a study of 30 weeks duration, 473 patients were randomized to receive single daily doses of placebo, 5 mg/day or 10 mg/day of donepezil hydrochloride. The 30-week study was divided into a 24-week double-blind active treatment phase followed by a 6-week single-blind placebo washout period. The study was designed to compare 5 mg/day or 10 mg/day fixed doses of donepezil hydrochloride to placebo. However, to reduce the likelihood of cholinergic effects, the 10 mg/day treatment was started following an initial 7-day treatment with 5 mg/day doses.
Effects on the ADAS-cog
Figure 1 illustrates the time course for the change from baseline in ADAS-cog scores for all three dose groups over the 30 weeks of the study. After 24 weeks of treatment, the mean differences in the ADAS-cog change scores for donepezil hydrochloride treated patients compared to the patients on placebo were 2.8 and 3.1 points for the 5 mg/day and 10 mg/day treatments, respectively. These differences were statistically significant. While the treatment effect size may appear to be slightly greater for the 10 mg/day treatment, there was no statistically significant difference between the two active treatments.
Following 6 weeks of placebo washout, scores on the ADAS-cog for both the donepezil hydrochloride treatment groups were indistinguishable from those patients who had received only placebo for 30 weeks. This suggests that the beneficial effects of donepezil hydrochloride abate over 6 weeks following discontinuation of treatment and do not represent a change in the underlying disease. There was no evidence of a rebound effect 6 weeks after abrupt discontinuation of therapy.
Figure 1. Time-course of the Change from Baseline in ADAS-cog Score for Patients Completing 24 Weeks of Treatment
Figure 2 illustrates the cumulative percentages of patients from each of the three treatment groups who had attained the measure of improvement in ADAS-cog score shown on the X axis. Three change scores (7-point and 4-point reductions from baseline or no change in score) have been identified for illustrative purposes, and the percent of patients in each group achieving that result is shown in the inset table.
The curves demonstrate that both patients assigned to placebo and donepezil hydrochloride have a wide range of responses, but that the active treatment groups are more likely to show greater improvements. A curve for an effective treatment would be shifted to the left of the curve for placebo, while an ineffective or deleterious treatment would be superimposed upon or shifted to the right of the curve for placebo.
Figure 2. Cumulative Percentage of Patients Completing 24 Weeks of Double-blind Treatment with Specified Changes from Baseline ADAS-cog Scores. The Percentages of Randomized Patients who Completed the Study were: Placebo 80%, 5 mg/day 85% and 10 mg/day 68%.
Effects on the CIBIC-plus
Figure 3 is a histogram of the frequency distribution of CIBIC-plus scores attained by patients assigned to each of the three treatment groups who completed 24 weeks of treatment. The mean drug-placebo differences for these groups of patients were 0.35 points and 0.39 points for 5 mg/day and 10 mg/day of donepezil hydrochloride, respectively. These differences were statistically significant. There was no statistically significant difference between the two active treatments.
Figure 3. Frequency Distribution of CIBIC-plus Scores at Week 24.
In a study of 15 weeks duration, patients were randomized to receive single daily doses of placebo or either 5 mg/day or 10 mg/day of donepezil hydrochloride for 12 weeks, followed by a 3-week placebo washout period. As in the 30-week study, to avoid acute cholinergic effects, the 10 mg/day treatment followed an initial 7-day treatment with 5 mg/day doses.
Effects on the ADAS-cog
Figure 4 illustrates the time course of the change from baseline in ADAS-cog scores for all three dose groups over the 15 weeks of the study. After 12 weeks of treatment, the differences in mean ADAS-cog change scores for the donepezil hydrochloride treated patients compared to the patients on placebo were 2.7 and 3.0 points each, for the 5 and 10 mg/day donepezil hydrochloride treatment groups, respectively. These differences were statistically significant. The effect size for the 10 mg/day group may appear to be slightly larger than that for 5 mg/day. However, the differences between active treatments were not statistically significant.
Figure 4. Time-course of the Change from Baseline in ADAS-cog Score for Patients Completing the 15-week Study.
Following 3 weeks of placebo washout, scores on the ADAS-cog for both the donepezil hydrochloride treatment groups increased, indicating that discontinuation of donepezil hydrochloride resulted in a loss of its treatment effect. The duration of this placebo washout period was not sufficient to characterize the rate of loss of the treatment effect, but the 30-week study (see above) demonstrated that treatment effects associated with the use of donepezil hydrochloride abate within 6 weeks of treatment discontinuation.
Figure 5 illustrates the cumulative percentages of patients from each of the three treatment groups who attained the measure of improvement in ADAS-cog score shown on the X axis. The same three change scores, (7-point and 4-point reductions from baseline or no change in score) as selected for the 30-week study have been used for this illustration. The percentages of patients achieving those results are shown in the inset table.
As observed in the 30-week study, the curves demonstrate that patients assigned to either placebo or to donepezil hydrochloride have a wide range of responses, but that the donepezil hydrochloride treated patients are more likely to show greater improvements in cognitive performance.
Figure 5. Cumulative Percentage of Patients with Specified Changes from Baseline ADAS-cog Scores. The Percentages of Randomized Patients Within Each Treatment Group Who Completed the Study Were: Placebo 93%, 5 mg/day 90%, and 10 mg/day 82%.
Effects on the CIBIC-plus
Figure 6 is a histogram of the frequency distribution of CIBIC-plus scores attained by patients assigned to each of the three treatment groups who completed 12 weeks of treatment. The differences in mean scores for donepezil hydrochloride treated patients compared to the patients on placebo at Week 12 were 0.36 and 0.38 points for the 5 mg/day and 10 mg/day treatment groups, respectively. These differences were statistically significant.
Figure 6. Frequency Distribution of CIBIC-plus Scores at Week 12.
In both studies, patient age, sex and race were not found to predict the clinical outcome of donepezil hydrochloride treatment.
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