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Health: Drug To Help Some Improve Memory

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Memory trouble? It's an issue millions struggle with, and now there could be a breakthrough treatment for a special group of women.

Kim has to always keep her calendar updated because she forgets.

"I just thought I was on the road to losing my mind," said Kim.

It's a feeling many women have, not being able to remember things. So much to do: the kids, the job, the groceries.

"I can't remember what I had for breakfast. It's bad," said Roberta Scott, of Philadelphia.

And when estrogen levels start dropping, women in their forties often complain of mounting memory troubles.

"That was the biggest thing, it wasn't what it used to be," said Kim. She found help with Vyvanse, a drug used to treat Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and she doesn't have ADHD.

"It was just amazing. I didn't know it could work like that," said Kim.

Doctors at Penn Medicine are testing the ADHD drug Vyvanse on menopausal women struggling with memory and focus.

"People have reported improved mental clarity, ability to pay attention, people feel more energized," said Dr. Neill Epperson, a Psychiatrist at Penn.

Vyvanse appears to offset the effects of declining estrogen, by boosting dopamine levels in the front of the brain.

"That is responsible for focus, attention and certain aspects of memory and concentration," said Dr. Epperson.

Kim says she could tell a difference right away.

"It helped my attention, and it helped me stay focused as well too," said Kim.

"This would be the first type of medication to be used in menopausal women to improve cognitive functioning, again in normal aging. so yes this is a very novel approach," said Dr. Epperson.

Penn researchers are still trying to determine if Vyvanse is effective for these women. It has yet to be proven. Dr. Epperson says it's an approach millions of women could potentially benefit from.

"It was awesome. I was much more productive and more efficient and totally less frustrated," said Kim.

In terms of side effects, some patients say they suffered with headaches, when they took the drug at higher doses. The study is ongoing and Penn is looking for more volunteers.

For more information on the Penn memory drug study, CLICK HERE.

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