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Treatment Eases Involuntary Laughing, Crying Tied to Alzheimer's, MS
Date:4/14/2010

Calming the condition can greatly improve patients' quality of life, experts note

WEDNESDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- Involuntary crying or laughing can be a common symptom in patients with certain neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

However, a combination of drugs could be the first effective long-term treatment for the problem, researchers say.

The new treatment for curbing these unwanted crying/laughing episodes -- known to doctors as "pseudobulbar affect" or PBA -- uses two drugs, dextromethorphan and low-dose quinidine.

Early indications are that the two drugs do reduce the incidence and severity of PBA episodes and improve quality of life.

"There's no FDA-approved therapy for pseudobulbar affect," noted study lead author Dr. Erik P. Pioro, director of the section for ALS and related disorders at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). "The off-label medications that are being used have their own set of side effects and problems. So from a medical and patient care point of view, it would be very worthwhile to have an approved medication that is both safe and effective," he said.

Pioro presented the findings at a press conference held earlier this week at the AAN's annual meeting in Toronto.

The study authors note that PBA typically manifests in patients with an underlying neurological illness, including those with multiple sclerosis (MS), ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) or Alzheimer's, as well as patients suffering from other dementias and/or brain infections and injuries.

Pioro said that conservative estimates put the number of Americans with PBA at close to 2 million, although he said the figure might actually be as high as 6 million to 7 million.

Dextromethorphan is a common medication and a principle ingredient of standard cough s
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