Effect of Rotigotine vs Placebo on Cognitive Functions Among Patients With Mild to Moderate Alzheimer Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial

G. Koch, C. Motta, S. Bonnì, M.C. Pellicciari, S. Picazio, E.P. Casula, M. Maiella, F. Di Lorenzo, V. Ponzo, Clarissa Ferrari, E. Scaricamazza, C. Caltagirone, A. Martorana

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Importance: Impairment of dopaminergic transmission may contribute to cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer disease (AD). Objective: To investigate whether therapy with dopaminergic agonists may affect cognitive functions in patients with AD. Design, Setting, and Participants: This phase 2, monocentric, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in Italy. Patients with mild to moderate AD were enrolled between September 1, 2017, and December 31, 2018. Data were analyzed from July 1 to September 1, 2019. Interventions: A rotigotine 2 mg transdermal patch for 1 week followed by a 4 mg patch for 23 weeks (n = 47) or a placebo transdermal patch for 24 weeks (n = 47). Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary end point was change from baseline on the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale. Secondary end points were changes in Frontal Assessment Battery, Alzheimer Disease Cooperative Study-Activities of Daily Living, and Neuropsychiatric Inventory scores. Prefrontal cortex activity was evaluated by transcranial magnetic stimulation combined with electroencephalography. Results: Among 94 patients randomized (mean [SD] age, 73.9 [5.6] years; 58 [62%] women), 78 (83%) completed the study. Rotigotine, as compared with placebo, had no significant effect on the primary end point: estimated mean change in Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale score was 2.92 (95% CI, 2.51-3.33) for the rotigotine group and 2.66 (95% CI, 2.31-3.01) for the placebo group. For the secondary outcomes, there were significant estimated mean changes between groups for Alzheimer Disease Cooperative Study-Activities of Daily Living score (-3.32 [95% CI, -4.02 to -2.62] for rotigotine and -7.24 [95% CI, -7.84 to -6.64] for placebo) and Frontal Assessment Battery score (0.48 [95% CI, 0.31 to 0.65] for rotigotine and -0.66 [95% CI, -0.80 to -0.52] for placebo). There was no longitudinal change in Neuropsychiatric Inventory scores (1.64 [95% CI, 1.06-2.22] for rotigotine and 1.26 [95% CI, 0.77-1.75] for placebo group). Neurophysiological analysis of electroencephalography results indicated that prefrontal cortical activity increased in rotigotine but not in the placebo group. Adverse events were more common in the rotigotine group, with 11 patients dropping out compared with 5 in the placebo group. Conclusions and Relevance: In this randomized clinical trial, rotigotine treatment did not significantly affect global cognition in patients with mild to moderate AD; however, improvement was observed in cognitive functions highly associated with the frontal lobe and in activities of daily living. These findings suggest that treatment with the dopaminergic agonist rotigotine may reduce symptoms associated with frontal lobe cognitive dysfunction and thus may delay the impairment of activities of daily living. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03250741.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2010372
JournalJAMA Netw Open
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • nootropic agent
  • rotigotine
  • tetralin derivative
  • thiophene derivative
  • aged
  • Alzheimer disease
  • cognition
  • controlled study
  • dementia assessment
  • drug effect
  • female
  • human
  • male
  • middle aged
  • randomized controlled trial
  • treatment outcome
  • very elderly
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests
  • Middle Aged
  • Nootropic Agents
  • Tetrahydronaphthalenes
  • Thiophenes
  • Treatment Outcome


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