Combo Drug May Calm Agitation in Alzheimer's Patients

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Combo Drug May Calm Agitation in Alzheimer's Patients
Combo Drug May Calm Agitation in Alzheimer's Patients

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A drug that combines dextromethorphan with quinidine might offer a safer option for calming the agitation that commonly affects people with Alzheimer's disease, researchers report in the Sept. 22/29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers led by Jeffrey Cummings, M.D., Sc.D., of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, recruited 220 patients with Alzheimer's-related agitation. First, the researchers randomly assigned 93 patients to take dextromethorphan-quinidine (Nuedexta), and 127 to take identical-looking placebo capsules every day for five weeks. At that point, 59 patients who were showing no response to the placebo pills were started on dextromethorphan-quinidine; another 60 remained on the placebo.

Over 10 weeks, patients on dextromethorphan-quinidine showed a decline in Neuropsychiatric Inventory Agitation/Aggression domain scores (scale range, 0 [absence of symptoms] to 12 [symptoms occur daily and with marked severity]). On average, their scores dropped from the 6- to 7-point range to just below 4 points. And it did not worsen patients' problems with memory, thinking, and judgment.

The new findings suggest the drug also helps calm Alzheimer's-related agitation. But it's too soon to know for sure, Anne Corbett, Ph.D., a dementia researcher at King's College London and coauthor of an editorial published with the study, told HealthDay.

Avanir Pharmaceuticals, which makes Nuedexta, funded the research.

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