Agitation is common in patients with dementia and can contribute to distress for patients and caregivers and an increased risk of institutionalization. Non-pharmacological interventions are recommended as first-line therapy, but many patients fail to respond, and medications are often needed. Currently available medications don’t work very well and can have serious side effects. A new study tested a combination of two existing medications, dextromethorphan hydrobromide and quinidine sulfate, to see if this would help control agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia.
Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic recruited 220 patients with Alzheimer’s dementia and agitation. During a preliminary 10 week trial, participants were randomly assigned to receive either the dextromethorphan-quinidine combination or a placebo.
Results showed that patients receiving the combination medication demonstrated fewer episodes of agitation compared to patients who received the placebo. When agitation did occur, it tended to be less severe. Researchers also found that not only is the combined drug effective, but safe.