Introduction: Treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) represents a major clinical challenge in Alzheimers disease (AD). Agitation and aggression are frequently seen during institutionalization and increase patient morbidity and mortality and caregiver burden. Off-label use of atypical antipsychotics for treating agitation in AD showed only modest clinical benefits, with high side-effect burden and risk of mortality. Non-pharmacological treatment approaches have become the preferred first-line option. When such treatment fails, pharmacological options are often used. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify effective and safe pharmacological treatments for efficiently treating agitation and aggression in AD and dementia.Areas covered: Emerging evidence on the neurobiological substrates of agitation in AD has led to several recent clinical trials of repositioned and novel therapeutics for these NPS in dementia as an alternative to antipsychotics. We operated a comprehensive literature search for published articles evaluating pharmacological interventions for agitation in AD, with a review of recent clinical trials on mibampator, dextromethorphan/quinidine, cannabinoids, and citalopram.Expert opinion: Notwithstanding the renewed interest for the pharmacological treatment of agitation in AD, progresses have been limited. A small number and, sometimes methodologically questionable, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have produced disappointing results. However, recently completed RCTs on novel or repositioned drugs (mibampator, dextromethorphan/quinidine, cannabinoids, and citalopram) showed some promise in treating agitation in AD, but still with safety concerns. Further evidence will come from ongoing Phase II and III trials on promising novel drugs for treating these distressing symptoms in patients with AD and dementia.
- Alzheimer's disease
- neuropsychiatric symptoms
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: treatment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)