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Drug May Help with Agitation in Alzheimer’s Disease Patients

iStock/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) -- Agitation occurs commonly but can be difficult and costly for doctors to treat in Alzheimer’s patients. Now, new research from the University of Rochester suggests that Citalopram (Celexa), an FDA-approved antidepressant, may help with agitation in Alzheimer’s sisease patients.

In a randomized trial, the researchers studied 186 patients with agitation and Alzheimer’s disease in two groups: one receiving Citalopram and another receiving a placebo.

After a nine-week period, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that it appeared the Citalopram group had a 40-percent improvement from baseline, and only 26 percent in the placebo group improved.

But while these results seem promising, there were side effects: worsened cognition, increased fall frequency and higher rates of changes in the electric conduction of the heart that could result in fatal arrhythmias. This means that families hoping to take advantage of this treatment could be faced with a tough choice between benefits and risks.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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