URMC study offers hope to caregivers of Alzheimer's patients

Updated: 02/18/2014 7:40 PM
Created: 02/18/2014 5:27 PM WHEC.com
By: Lia Lando

If you are living with a family member who has Alzheimer’s disease, you know it can be difficult. Patients often become agitated and as time goes on, the symptoms usually get worse. A new study out Tuesday from UR Medicine offers some hope. 

The research was done right here in Rochester at UR Medicine. Researchers found that a common drug used to treat depression, known by many as Celexa, significantly reduced agitation in patients. That's one of the more heart breaking symptoms of the disease. As time goes on, people with Alzheimer’s become more and more short-tempered, restless, resistant to help and even verbally or physically abusive.

Doctors say anti-psychotics are often prescribed to deal with these symptoms, but they significantly increase a patient's risk of stroke, heart attack and death. This new study led by Dr. Anton Porsteinsson found a high dose of the antidepressant, Citalopram, helped both patient's and caregivers.

Dr. Anton Porsteinsson said, “Forty percent of the people on the drug had a marked level of improvement. The difference was actually enough that the caregivers of the patients that got the medication had reduced distress. We are going to push forward and figure out not only better ways to treat the behavioral disruptions, but also we're working on other studies that look at the thinking, memory and your ability to do things and even see if Alzheimer’s disease at some time can be prevented.”

Dr. Porsteinsson says there were some side effects to the anti-depressant including a possible increased risk of irregular heart beat and slight decline in the level of thinking and memory.

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