The drugs haloperidol or trazodone, or behavior management techniques (BMT), are commonly used to treat agitation in Alzheimer's patients, but the first large-scale, randomized placebo-controlled study of such treatments has found that they are only marginally effective at best. The Alzheimer Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) reports that across all groups, only 34% of patients improved relative to baseline; patients in the trazodone arm showed the greatest improvement. Agitation worsened in 46% of patients, however, and did not change in 20%. Interestingly, 31% of patients receiving placebo showed improvement. This suggested that meeting regularly with a well-trained and supportive clinician may in itself help reduce agitation.—Hakon Heimer

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Primary Papers

  1. . Treatment of agitation in AD: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Neurology. 2000 Nov 14;55(9):1271-8. PubMed.