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Neurology. 2003 Apr 8;60(7):1071-6.

DHEA treatment of Alzheimer's disease: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Center for Neurobiology and Psychiatry, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, USA. owenw@itsa.ucsf.edu



To compare the efficacy and tolerability of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) vs placebo in AD.


Fifty-eight subjects with AD were randomized to 6 month's treatment with DHEA (50 mg per os twice a day; n = 28) or placebo (n = 30) in a multi-site, double-blind pilot trial. Primary efficacy measures assessed cognitive functioning (the AD Assessment Scale-Cognitive [ADAS-Cog]) and observer-based ratings of overall changes in severity (the Clinician's Interview-Based Impression of Change with Caregiver Input [CIBIC-Plus]). At baseline, 3 months, and 6 months, the ADAS-Cog was administered, and at 3 and 6 months, the CIBIC-Plus was administered. The 6-month time point was the primary endpoint.


Nineteen DHEA-treated subjects and 14 placebo-treated subjects completed the trial. DHEA was relatively well-tolerated. DHEA treatment, relative to placebo, was not associated with improvement in ADAS-Cog scores at month 6 (last observation carried forward; p = 0.10); transient improvement was noted at month 3 (p = 0.014; cutoff for Bonferroni significance = 0.0125). No difference between treatments was seen on the CIBIC-Plus at either the 6-month or the 3-month time points.


DHEA did not significantly improve cognitive performance or overall ratings of change in severity in this small-scale pilot study. A transient effect on cognitive performance may have been seen at month 3, but narrowly missed significance.

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