A drug used to treat Alzheimer's could also help those who are victims of traumatic head injury to avoid mental impairment, according to new research.
Donepezil, sold under brand name Aricept, was developed to treat Alzheimer's by increasing levels of a brain chemical linked to memory.
But the brand is in the centre of controversy after a decision by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) who have said the drug should be targeted at moderate-stage patients rather than preventing those with early symptoms of the disease.
A legal battle is still being fought over the decision, which patient groups and pharmaceutical companies have strongly challenged.
But a small study of just nine patients, including stroke and accident victims, has provided evidence that a daily dose of the drug could also help improve the memory, concentration, and mental vigilance of those with head injuries.
The patients, seven men and two women aged from 40 to 70, were started off on five milligrams of Aricept a day, rising to 10 milligrams after 10 weeks, similar does to those given to Alzheimer's sufferers. After a year of treatment, there were notable improvements such as sustained attention and memory, according to the researchers at the National Rehabilitation Hospital near Dublin, Republic of Ireland.