We’ve known about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia for decades, but we have yet to find a cure or even a long-term treatment for these diseases. However, a pre-existing medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease is showing promise in recent trials and may help dementia patients who suffer from delusions.
Dementia patients do not always have the same symptoms, but one of the most worrying symptoms of dementia is delusion. Patients who hallucinate are often incapable of distinguishing what is real from what their brains are inventing, and they are especially prone to anxiety, aggression, and physical and verbal abuse against those who care for them.
The drug Pimavanserin (Nuplazid) has been approved in the U.S. for the treatment of Parkinson’s-related psychosis since 2016. It blocks a brain chemical responsible for delusions and helps keep Parkinson’s patients from experiencing hallucinations. But a new study involving Alzheimer’s patients has shown that the drug may also help reduce hallucinations in dementia patients. In fact, the results were so overwhelmingly positive that the study was stopped early.
The medication will still have to be approved in the U.S. for the treatment of hallucinations in dementia patients, but if it is approved, it will be the first drug approved for dementia-related psychosis in almost two decades.
“This would be a very important advance,” says Dr. Howard Fillit, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
Research suggests that roughly 30 percent of people who have dementia will also develop psychosis, making this discovery potentially very valuable and life-changing to a third of the 5.8 million Americans currently suffering from dementia and their families and caregivers.
The process of researching and approving drugs in the U.S. takes time, but with any luck, this drug will be approved for dementia and helping people around the country before we know it.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?