Sink KM, Holden KF, Yaffe K. Pharmacological treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia: a review of the evidence. JAMA 293: 596-608

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States
JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association (Impact Factor: 35.29). 03/2005; 293(5):596-608. DOI: 10.1001/jama.293.5.596
Source: PubMed


Neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia are common and associated with poor outcomes for patients and caregivers. Although nonpharmacological interventions should be the first line of treatment, a wide variety of pharmacological agents are used in the management of neuropsychiatric symptoms; therefore, concise, current, evidence-based recommendations are needed.
To evaluate the efficacy of pharmacological agents used in the treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia.
A systematic review of English-language articles published from 1966 to July 2004 using MEDLINE, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and a manual search of bibliographies was conducted. Inclusion criteria were double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or meta-analyses of any drug therapy for patients with dementia that included neuropsychiatric outcomes. Trials reporting only depression outcomes were excluded. Data on the inclusion criteria, patients, methods, results, and quality of each study were independently abstracted. Twenty-nine articles met inclusion criteria.
For typical antipsychotics, 2 meta-analyses and 2 RCTs were included. Generally, no difference among specific agents was found, efficacy was small at best, and adverse effects were common. Six RCTs with atypical antipsychotics were included; results showed modest, statistically significant efficacy of olanzapine and risperidone, with minimal adverse effects at lower doses. Atypical antipsychotics are associated with an increased risk of stroke. There have been no RCTs designed to directly compare the efficacy of typical and atypical antipsychotics. Five trials of antidepressants were included; results showed no efficacy for treating neuropsychiatric symptoms other than depression, with the exception of 1 study of citalopram. For mood stabilizers, 3 RCTs investigating valproate showed no efficacy. Two small RCTs of carbamazepine had conflicting results. Two meta-analyses and 6 RCTs of cholinesterase inhibitors generally showed small, although statistically significant, efficacy. Two RCTs of memantine also had conflicting results for treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms.
Pharmacological therapies are not particularly effective for management of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia. Of the agents reviewed, the atypical antipsychotics risperidone and olanzapine currently have the best evidence for efficacy. However, the effects are modest and further complicated by an increased risk of stroke. Additional trials of cholinesterase inhibitors enrolling patients with high levels of neuropsychiatric symptoms may be warranted.

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    • "Risperidone was the most commonly used antipsychotic agent in our study, followed by quetiapine and olanzapine. Olanzapine and risperidone have shown modest efficacy for the treatment of behavioral disturbances in patients with dementia with minimal adverse effects at lower doses and these two antipsychotics are recommended in Australian Medicine Handbook (Sink et al., 2005;AMH, 2014). However, risperidone is the only atypical antipsychotic medication both approved by the regulatory authority, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and subsidized by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in Australia for BPSD, which is likely to have contributed to its high use (Hollingworth et al., 2010;TGA, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Antipsychotic agents have limited efficacy for Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) and there are concerns about their safety. Despite this, they are frequently used for the management of BPSD. This study aimed to assess the use of antipsychotics among people on anti-dementia medicines in Australian residential aged care facilities. Methods: Data were obtained from an individual patient unit dose packaging database covering 40 residential aged care facilities in New South Wales, Australia. Residents supplied an anti-dementia medicine between July 2008 and June 2013 were included. Prevalence of concurrent antipsychotic use was established. Incident antipsychotic users between January 2009 and December 2011 were identified. We examined initial antipsychotic dose, maximum titrated doses, type and duration of antipsychotic use, and compared use with Australian guidelines. Results: There were 291 residents treated with anti-dementia medicines, 129 (44%) of whom received antipsychotics concomitantly with an anti-dementia medicine. Among the 59 incident antipsychotic users, risperidone (73%) was the most commonly used antipsychotic agent. Amongst the risperidone initiators, 43% of patients had initial doses greater than 0.5 mg/day and 6% of patients exceeded 2.0 mg/day for their maximum dose. 53% of concomitant users received daily treatment for greater than six months. Conclusions: Our study using records of individual patient unit dose supply, which represents the intended medication consumption schedule, shows high rates of concurrent use of antipsychotics and anti-dementia medicines and long durations of use. The use of antipsychotics in patients with dementia needs to be carefully monitored to improve patient outcomes.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · International Psychogeriatrics
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    • "Several studies indicate that NFTs and amyloid plaques could be involved in the pathological process causing BPSD but this has not been proven and further research is warranted [11,12,18,19,20]. Current pharmacological treatment options for agitation mainly include antipsychotics, which display modest efficacy and might be associated with severe cerebrovascular events [21,22]. This accentuates the importance of identifying potential targets for novel drug development. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background The objective of this study was to examine the associations of agitation with the cerebrospinal fluid dementia biomarkers total-tau (T-tau), phosphorylated-tau (P-tau) and Aβ1-42. Methods One hundred patients (mean age ± SD, 78.6 ± 7.5 years) with dementia and neuropsychiatric symptoms, of whom 67% were female, were included. Agitation was measured using the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI; 46.5 ± 11.8 points). Results Total CMAI correlated with T-tau [rs (31) = 0.36, p = 0.04] and P-tau [rs (31) = 0.35, p = 0.05] in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD; n = 33) but not in the total dementia population (n = 95). Conclusions Our results suggest that tau-mediated pathology including neurofibrillary tangles and the intensity of the disease process might be associated with agitation in AD.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014
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    • "Indeed, although haloperidol has no effect on agitation or behavioral symptoms as a whole, it reduces aggression. Other meta-analyses indicated no major difference between first-generation antipsychotics in efficacy for BPSD (Sink et al. 2005). Subsequently, second-generation 'atypical' antipsychotics partially replaced first-generation antipsychotics in the treatment of BPSD (De Deyn et al. 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: Many dementia patients exhibit behavioral and psychological symptoms (BPSD), including psychosis and depression. Although antipsychotics are frequently prescribed off-label, they can have marked side effects. In addition, comparative preclinical studies of their effects are surprisingly scarce, and strategies for discovery of novel pharmacotherapeutics are lacking. We therefore compared eight antipsychotics in rat behavioral tests of psychosis, antidepressant-like activity, and cognitive impairment as a basis for preclinical evaluation of new drug candidates. The methods used in this study include inhibition of MK-801-induced hyperactivity, forced swim test (FST), passive avoidance (PA), spontaneous locomotor activity, and catalepsy. The drugs exhibited antipsychotic-like activity in the MK-801 test but with diverse profiles in the other models. Risperidone impaired PA performance, but with some dose separation versus its actions in the MK-801 test. In contrast, clozapine, olanzapine, lurasidone, and asenapine showed little or no dose separation in these tests. Aripiprazole did not impair PA performance but was poorly active in the MK-801 test. Diverse effects were also observed in the FST: chlorpromazine was inactive and most other drugs reduced immobility over narrow dose ranges, whereas clozapine reduced immobility over a wider dose range, overlapping with antipsychotic activity. Although the propensity of second-generation antipsychotics to produce catalepsy was lower, they all elicited pronounced sedation. Consistent with clinical data, most currently available second-generation antipsychotics induced cognitive and motor side effects with little separation from therapeutic-like doses. This study provides a uniform in vivo comparative basis on which to evaluate future early-stage drug candidates intended for potential pharmacotherapy of BPSD.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · Archiv für Experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie
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