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Dement Neuropsychol. 2011 Jan-Mar;5(1):38-43. doi: 10.1590/S1980-57642011DN05010007.

Antipsychotics in Alzheimer's disease: A critical analysis.

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Department of Geriatrics, Clinical Hospital of The University of São Paulo, São Paulo SP, Brazil.


in English, Portuguese

The estimated worldwide prevalence of dementia among adults older than 60 years of age was 3.9% in 2005. About 90% of demented patients will develop neuropsychiatric symptoms (NS) such as delirium, delusion, aggressiveness and agitation. The treatment of NS involves non-pharmacologic strategies (with varying degrees of success according to the scientific literature) and pharmacologic treatment (PT). The present review of literature examined the current role of AP in the management of NS in dementia.


A thematic review of medical literature was carried out.


313 articles were found, 39 of which were selected for critical analysis. Until 2005, the best evidence for PT had supported the use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anticholinesterases, memantine and antipsychotics (AP). In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disapproved the use of atypical APs to treat neuropsychiatric symptoms in individuals with dementia (the same occurred with the typical APs in 2008). After this, at least two important randomized placebo-controlled multicenter trials were published examining the effectiveness of atypical APs in Alzheimer's disease (CATIE-AD) and the effects of interrupting AP treatment (DART-AD).


Based on the current evidence available, APs still have a place in treatment of the more serious psychotic symptoms, after the failure of non-pharmacological treatment and of an initial approach with selective inhibitors of serotonin uptake, anticholinesterases and memantine.


Alzheimer; antipsychotics; dementia; neuropsychiatric symptoms; side effects

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