A new study suggests that Alzheimer patients can still drive within safe limits once treated with memantine.

Petter Holland, lead author of the study and research professor of biomedical science at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, presented his study during the Alzheimer's Association International Conference. His study involves 13 drivers previously diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and are all under medication using memantine with brand name Namenda manufactured by Forest Laboratories, Inc.

The research team recruited 60 participants originally with age over 60 and had mild Alzheimer cases. A mild Alzheimer case is defined as a Mini Mental State Examination score of at least 23. The number was then reduced to 43 people. Twenty-nine of them were able to complete the sixth month program. Their driving skills were measured using the DriveABLE-On Road Evaluation.

The participants were able to maintain their road driving skills throughout the 12-month monitoring period which is a little better than those who were under placebo. Holland admitted that his sample is really small to establish a case but he was able to a statistically prove that those who took the medication were better than those under placebo.

For most Alzheimer patients, losing their driving skills or being advised not to drive is a life-changing event which negatively affects their lives and their caregivers. Allowing the patients to do safe driving can help improve their lives and reduce the load of the caregivers as well.

Holland is serious about promoting memantine to the patients. "We believe that adding memantine to the drug regime is effective in delaying driving impairment in subjects with mild Alzheimer's disease," he said at his poster presentation in the conference's "Developing Topics" session.

Holland admitted that his study needs further research. It was supported by the Forest Research Institute.