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Common Antidepressant Eases Agitation in Alzheimer’s Patients

The results of a Journal of the American Medical Association study offer a glimmer of hope to families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.  Led by Anton P. Porsteinsson, M.D., the U of R’s William B. and Sheila Konar Professor of Psychiatry, researchers at the U of R, Johns Hopkins University, and six other academic medical centers found that a high dose of a common antidepressant drug (citalopram) significantly reduced agitation in patients participating in the study.  However, given potentially concerning side effects of citalopram, researchers say further investigation is needed to determine whether a smaller dose will be as effective.

Older coupleAgitation can be one of the most heartbreaking symptoms of the disease, and it is one of the most common reasons Alzheimer’s patients are moved out of their homes into higher levels of care.  Caregivers watch as their loved ones become increasingly short-tempered, physically restless, resistant to help, or even verbally and physically abusive.  Treatment options are very limited.  Antipsychotics are often prescribed, but these significantly increase a patient’s risk of a stroke, heart attack, or death.

Citalopram, sold under the brand names Celexa and Cipramil, is one of the most common antidepressants taken by older adults in America.  In this study, published in the February 19 issue of JAMA, 30 milligrams of citalopram were given to 94 patients with agitation.  Another group of 92 patients with these symptoms took a placebo.  At the end of the study, 40 percent of patients who took citalopram had “considerable relief” from their agitation symptoms, compared to 26 percent in the placebo group.  Researchers obtained these result by comparing the results of two common rating scales (Neurobehavioral Rating Scale NBRS-A and a modified Alzheimer Disease Cooperative Study-Clinical Global Impression of Change mADCS-CGIC), administered by clinicians at the beginning and the end of the study.

Read more about the study here

Emily Boynton | 2/19/2014 | 0 comments

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