CNS Drugs

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 79–92 | Cite as

Cholinesterase Inhibitors and Vascular Dementia

Another String to Their Bow?
  • Roger Bullock
Leading Article


Two of the four licensed cholinesterase inhibitors, galantamine and donepezil, have recently featured in published work showing how they act in dementia associated with cerebrovascular disease (CVD). It is timely to review this new evidence and place it within the current consensus understanding of what makes up a clearly heterogeneous dementia population. To do this, the current review explores the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease, for which this group of compounds originally received licensing approval, and vascular pathology within the brain, highlighting the significant overlap in risk factors and the frequent coexistence of the two conditions in the patients that are studied. Whether they are inter-related or separate entities is discussed, followed by a description of the current classifications of Alzheimer’s disease with CVD, and the three subtypes of ‘pure’ vascular dementia — subcortical, cortical and strategic infarct. Understanding these entities allows more accurate diagnostic and prognostic information to be given to patients, and leads towards matching the published clinical evidence discussed with more predictable clinical syndromes. This distinction is particularly relevant in terms of the studies conducted thus far.

Galantamine has been studied in a placebo-controlled study of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and CVD as well as patients with vascular dementia, whereas donepezil was studied exclusively in patients with vascular dementia. Differences in the way the placebo groups acted in these studies confirmed the fact that these actually are two distinct groups. Galantamine showed efficacy across the combined groups studied, with placebo deterioration similar to previous Alzheimer’s disease studies, while donepezil produced a positive effect in vascular dementia — with this placebo group relatively unchanged. The symptomatic improvements seen were not really surprising, as cholinergic deficits are a common factor across all of these syndromes. Wherever this is the predominant biological finding, it would be expected that cholinesterase inhibitors would have a similar effect, whatever the condition causing it.


Dementia Vascular Dementia Cholinesterase Inhibitor Rivastigmine Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank PPSI and Pfizer for providing information in advance of their 2003 publications. The author has participated in clinical trials for all of the drugs mentioned in this article and also many others. No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this manuscript. The author has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kingshill Research CentreVictoria HospitalSwindonUK

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