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Antidepressant as Good as Antipsychotics for Dementia
Date:9/10/2007

Study finds fewer side effects for Alzheimer's patients prone to hallucinations, delusions

MONDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- The antidepressant citalopram (Celexa) may be as effective as often-prescribed antipsychotic drugs to control the agitation and psychotic symptoms associated with dementia, a new study suggests.

Agitation and psychotic symptoms are often more disturbing than the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and are also the most difficult challenge for family members caring for an elderly person. Currently, antipsychotic drugs such as risperidone (Risperdal) are used to control these symptoms. But often the side effects, including sedation, tension and apathy, can be debilitating, the study authors said.

"We found that an antidepressant worked as well in severely agitated patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease as an antipsychotic," said lead researcher Dr. Bruce Pollock, of the University of Toronto's Department of Psychiatry. "And citalopram had fewer side effects."

The surprise was that citalopram worked as well for psychotic symptoms such as delusion and visual hallucinations, he said.

Pollock also noted that antipsychotic drugs have an increased risk of death associated with their use. "But, for the first time, it has been shown that an antidepressant may work as well for psychotic symptoms as an antipsychotic," he said.

Pollock thinks the antidepressant worked, because the psychotic symptoms associated with dementia have a different chemistry than the same symptoms in a psychotic patient.

For the study, Pollock's team randomly assigned 103 patients who were hospitalized at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center with psychiatric disturbances related to dementia to receive either citalopram or risperidone. Fifty-three patients received daily doses of citalopram, while 50 got daily doses of risperidone.

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