Caregiving for a Person
with Alzheimer's Disease or Other Dementia
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Sertraline Effectively Treats Depression in Alzheimer's
A large portion of the 4 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease
(AD) a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that results
in memory loss, impaired thinking, and personality change also
suffer from major depression. This can make the already devastating condition
even more difficult, not only for patients, but also for their caregivers.
Until recently, the efficacy of antidepressants in such patients was
uncertain. Now, a study from The American Journal of Psychiatry shows
that sertraline (Zoloft) a type of antidepressant known as a selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is more effective than placebo in
reducing depression in patients with AD. This study is the first to show
both the efficacy and safety of an SSRI in treating depression in patients
A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
and the Copper Ridge Institute in Maryland selected 22 patients with
Alzheimer's disease who also met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) criteria for having had a major depressive
episode. Over the course of the 12 week double-blind trial, the scientists
gave the patients, whose average age was 77, either a placebo or up to
150 milligrams of sertraline per day. All patients and caregivers received
illness education, encouragement, and emotional support every three weeks
over the course of treatment.
The scientists found that AD patients who had been given sertraline experienced
significantly greater improvements in mood than patients who received
a placebo. In addition, the sertraline patients experienced less decline
than placebo patients in participation in daily activities.
Side effects of the drug included tremor, restlessness, and gastrointestinal
complaints. But all were mild, and there was no significant difference
in side effects between the sertraline group and the placebo group.
April 2001 Update
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