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A study is to investigate whether the new Alzheimer’s drug memantine is a safer alternative to commonly-prescribed antipsychotic drugs used to relieve symptoms of agitation caused by the condition.
The Institute of Psychiatry, funded by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust (ART), will investigate use of the medication after previous research suggested that the death risk of people taking antipsychotic drugs doubled over three years.
The new pilot study will track the activity levels of 100 Alzheimer’s patients using wrist-worn monitors.
The data will then be analysed to compare sleep disturbance, which is linked to increased agitation.
Researchers believe that prescribing memantine could treat sleep disturbance and restore more natural rest-activity balance, which in turn would reduce agitation.
Team leader Dr Daisy Whitehead of King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, said: “We believe that memantine can help people with severe Alzheimer’s to restore their normal rest and activity balance, and alleviate agitation, which would help avoid serious concerns over the use of antipsychotic drugs.”
Depending on the outcome of the tests, which are the first to use memantine to restore an appropriate balance between rest and activity, it is hoped the drug could be used as a safer alternative to treat agitation.
Copyright Press Association 2009