Cholinesterase inhibitors, that help victims of Alzheimer's disease can also assist in the management of behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, a new study has shown.
In the study, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine, the Regenstrief Institute and Wishard Health Services reviewed nine randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials.
The trials were meant to evaluate the effectiveness of three popular cholinesterase inhibitors in managing behavioural and psychological symptoms displayed by patients with Alzheimer's disease.
The results suggested that cholinesterase inhibitors led to a statistically significant reduction in behavioural and psychological symptoms such as aggression, wandering or paranoia when using the same dosage as administered for improving cognitive impairment.
It was found that nine out of 10 Alzheimer's disease patients display behavioural and psychological symptoms of their disease.
The review of the clinical trials revealed that cholinesterase inhibitors are safe, producing no major side effects.
"There is a need for safe alternatives to the anti-psychotic drugs currently used to manage the behavioural and psychological symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The results of the studies we analysed are encouraging and suggestive that cholinesterase inhibitors are safe and effective alternatives. However, they are under-utilised 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 Malaz Boustani, M.D.
Alzheimer's disease is characterised by a decrease in acetylcholine, a chemical in the brain that assists memory, thought and judgment. Cholinesterase inhibitors raise acetylcholine levels in the brain, which leads to increased communication between nerve cells and may improve or stabilize the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in the early and moderate stages of progression.
"This class of medications has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to manage symptoms of Alzheimer's-type dementia, although their potential benefits on behavioural symptoms are not frequently identified by many prescribers. Clinical trials of cholinesterase inhibitors have shown benefits in several domains of cognitive function as well as behavioural symptoms associated with dementia, and may improve the management of behavioural problems while reducing the use of more harmful medications that are needed to control behaviours," said Noll Campbell, PharmD, a clinical pharmacy specialist in geriatric psychiatry with Wishard Health Services and corresponding author of the paper.
Boustani said that the new findings will encourage doctors to prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors, with its benefits for both cognition and behaviour symptoms to their Alzheimer's disease patients.
The study was published in the latest edition of Clinical Interventions in Aging.