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Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2007;44 Suppl 1:35-43.

Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) in elderly demented subjects: is the long lasting use of atypical antipsychotic drugs useful and safe?

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Department of Geriatrics, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Nuovo Ospe-dale Civile S. Agostino-Estense, Baggiovara, I-41100 Modena, Italy. <>


The use of atypical antipsychotics (AA) is suggested in the treatment of BPSD, although controversial data are available on their safety and efficacy. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of AA and whether this therapy could modify cognitive and functional domains in parallel with BPSD modifications. Out of 1,100 patients followed by the psychogeriatric ambulatory of our hospital, 69 patients (6.2%) were in therapy with AA and only 32 of them fulfilled the inclusion criteria of this study. Namely, the availability was required of a complete geriatric assessment, including the evaluation of cognitive (mini mental state examination=MMSE), emotional (the Italian "scala di valutazione del benessere emotivo nell'anziano"=SVEBA), functional (basic and instrumental activities of daily living=ADL and IADL), as well as behavioral (neuropsychological inventory=NPI) status, at the beginning (T(0)) and after a 6 month therapy (T(1)). The AA prescribed were risperidone (42.8%), olanzapine (31.3%), quetiapine (25.9%). The mean age was 80.1 years; 34.4% male; 65.6% female. Educational level was elementary in 90.6% of cases. Only 21.9% were institutionalized. 15.6% had 1 cardiovascular risk factor (CVRF), 50% more than 1, and the remaining with no CVRF. More than the half of them were diagnosed with degenerative dementia (D) (40.6% Alzheimer D=AD; 15.6% fronto-temporal dementia (FTD); 34.4% with vascular dementia (VD) (9.4%) or combined D (25%); 3,1 % with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), classified as F06.7 by the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) and 6.2% with psychiatric disturbances. The most common BPSD were hallucinations, delusions, agitation, verbal and physical aggression. A paired t-test was applied to analyze data. There was a significant improvement with all 3 AA on NPI (mean NPI T(0)=27.50 vs. T(1)=12.13; t=7.49). An improvement was also observed on SVEBA (t=1.97), close to significance. Most people did not have any adverse effects; 5 patients (15.6%) had extrapyramidal symptoms and 1 (3.1%) showed ginecomasty, clinically so relevant to cause the interruption of the treatment. The profile of safety and efficacy described on the whole sample was confirmed when it was subdivided according to kind of drug, illness severity and presence/absence of CVRF. In a large sample of the "real" subjects attending a geriatric service for dementia, the accurate selection of patients treatable with AA leads to identification of a population with a negligible rate of adverse effects in presence of a high rate of efficacy with respect not only to BPSD but also to cognitive and functional domains.

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