Antidepressant may help with Alzheimer's

Published 02/18 2014 04:21PM

Updated 02/18 2014 04:23PM

A drug already on the market may help with some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, but are the benefits worth the downsides?
Agitation is common in patients with Alzheimer's disease and it can result in aggression, excessive activity or hostility.
A new study in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association examined whether the anti-depressant drug citalopram, brand name Celexa is safe and effective for treating agitation in  these  patients.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center studied 186 people with mild to severe Alzheimer's disease and agitation. They gave half of them citalopram and the other half a placebo. All were also offered counseling and taught ways to deal with the agitation.

Dr. Constantine Lyeketsos says, "if we look at patients who got much better on placebo the number there was about 27 percent. On drug that was about 40 percent. So relative to placebo about 13 percent of patients got better because of the drug and we're talking much better."

However, some of the patients on the antidepressant also had changes associated with potentially unstable heart rhythms.

According to Dr. Lyeketsos, "at about three quarters of the way through the trial the FDA, issued an advisory that in elderly populations doses above 20 milligrams should be used with caution because of the effects on the heart."

He added, "there is a clear benefit to the drug at the 30 milligram dose. We also have clear evidence of the real cardiac effects also on the 30 milligram dose."

Those taking  the maximum dose of the drug  tended to have a decline in their thinking compared to those taking placebo

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