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Alzheimer's Drugs Also Treat Behavioral, Psych Problems

Therapy effective at same dosage used to improve cognitive impairment, study says

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Drugs used to treat Alzheimer's patients' cognitive symptoms are also a safe and effective therapy for behavioral and psychological symptoms such as aggression, wandering and paranoia, according to U.S. researchers.

They reviewed nine studies that examined the effectiveness of three popular cholinesterase inhibitors in managing Alzheimer's patients' behavioral and psychological symptoms, and found the drugs were effective at the same dosage used to improve cognitive impairment.

The study was published in the December issue of Clinical Interventions in Aging.

About 90 percent of Alzheimer's patients have behavioral and psychological symptoms. Cholinesterase inhibitors boost levels of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which assists memory, thought and judgment.

"There is a need for safe alternatives to the antipsychotic drugs currently used to manage the behavioral and psychological symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The results of the studies we analyzed are encouraging and suggestive that cholinesterase inhibitors are safe and effective alternatives," review co-author Dr. Malaz Boustani, an assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

"However, [cholinesterase inhibitors] are underutilized and typically prescribed for less than three months and for less than 10 percent of patients with Alzheimer's disease. Our findings might provide clinicians with useful data to justify the appropriate use of these medications," said Boustani, a researcher at the IU Center for Aging Research and chief research officer of the Indianapolis Discovery Network for Dementia.

"This class of medications has already been approved the Food and Drug Administration to manage symptoms of Alzheimer's type dementia, although the potential benefits on behavioral symptoms are not frequently identified by many prescribers," study co-author Noll Campbell, a clinical pharmacy specialist in geriatric psychiatry with Wishard Health Services, said in the news release. The use of cholinesterase inhibitors could reduce "the use of more harmful medications that are needed to control [dementia-related] behaviors."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's medications.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Indiana University, news release, Dec. 9, 2008

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