Medicines commonly used to treat epilepsy and other seizure disorders appear to be effective at soothing the agitation in people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. The findings are a glimmer of good news for the treatment of some of the most disturbing aspects of the disease, which afflicts about 4 million people in the United States alone.
The results by University of Rochester scientists are being featured at a media briefing this week at the 6th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Psychiatrists Pierre Tariot and Anton Porsteinsson, physicians at the University's main Alzheimer's treatment site at nearby Monroe Community Hospital, presented the results from several placebo-controlled studies showing that the compounds are effective in treating agitation among patients with dementia. The medicines appear to be as good as or better than the medicines physicians have available now to treat agitation, says Tariot. Patients' aggression and agitation are often the top concerns among families of patients, say physicians.
"The behavioral disturbances wear care givers down and are one of the main reasons that patients are admitted to acute and long-term care institutions," says Porsteinsson. "People don't put their husbands or mothers in nursing homes because they are forgetful; they're put in a nursing home because they are a danger to themselves or others, or because they're unbearably hostile or aggressive. This type of medicine alleviates those symptoms for many patients in a population that is a bear to treat."
About three-quarters of patients on the medicine
carbamazepine improved in two of the studies, which were funded
by the National Institutes of Health. The second study, with 51
patients, was halted prematurely because the drug appeared so
effective that physicians concluded that further enrollment was
not necessary and that all patie
Contact: Tom Rickey
University of Rochester