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Drug fails to reduce Alzheimer's agitation

May 4, 2012 at 10:05 PM

INDIANAPOLIS, May 4 (UPI) -- A drug that had appeared promising did not ease clinically significant agitation in Alzheimer's patients, U.S., British and Norwegian researchers say.

A drug that may reduce some Alzheimer's symptoms did not ease clinically significant agitation in patients, U.S. and Norwegian researchers said.

Regenstrief Institute investigator Dr. Malaz Boustani of the Indiana University School of Medicine said previous studies suggested the medication memantine could help reduce agitation and improve cognitive functions such as memory.

Boustani and colleagues at Indiana University; the University of East Anglia, University College London, University of Kent, Aston University, Oxleas National Health Service Foundation Trust and Kings College London, all in England, and the University of Stavanger in Norway, said this was first randomized controlled trial designed to assess the effectiveness of the drug for significant agitation in Alzheimer's patients.

The research team studied 153 nursing home residents and hospital inpatients with severe Alzheimer's from September 2007 to May 2010. Half were given memantine and half received a placebo.

The study, published in PLoS ONE, found while memantine improved cognitive functioning and neuropsychiatric symptoms such as delusion, mood and anxiety, it was no more effective in reducing significant agitation than a placebo.

"Memantine is quite commonly prescribed for Alzheimer's disease in the United States despite the negative findings regarding agitation, this trial opened a door of hope," Boustani said in a statement. "Memantine did appear to help with other behavioral and psychological symptoms of Alzheimer's disease."

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