Antidepressant Eases Alzheimer's Burden
Zoloft Safely Treats Depression in People with Alzheimer's Disease
WebMD News Archive
July 28, 2003 -- Alzheimer's disease can have devastating
effects not only on the people with the memory-robbing disease, but also on
their families and caregivers. But a new study shows treating the depression
that often accompanies Alzheimer's disease with an antidepressant can help make
the daily routine easier for all involved.
Researchers found treatment with the drug Zoloft, which is
commonly prescribed to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and
panic disorder, significantly improved the quality of life for Alzheimer's
patients with depression and reduced behavioral disturbances such as agitation,
aggression and anxiety.
"Depression in Alzheimer's patients, and even Alzheimer's
disease itself, often goes undiagnosed, in part because doctors feel they have
little to offer in the form of treatment. This study shows that a simple
treatment for depression improves the quality of life and seems to slow the
functional decline of Alzheimer's disease," says researcher Constantine
Lyketsos, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins
University, in a news release.
Although treatment with Zoloft had beneficial effects on the
patient's daily lives, it did not improve their mental abilities that had
deteriorated due to Alzheimer's, such as thinking, remembering, and
Treatment Improves Quality of Life
Researchers say about 25% of people with Alzheimer's disease
suffer from major depression. Depression is also a major cause of disability
among Alzheimer's patients and has a negative impact on their quality of
In this study, published in the Archives of General
Psychiatry, researchers screened a group of Alzheimer's patients with
depression to eliminate those with temporary or transient depression. The
remaining 44 patients were then randomly assigned to receive a daily dose of
Zoloft or a placebo each day for 12 weeks.
Researchers found 84% of those patients who took Zoloft had a
favorable response compared to 35% who took the placebo. Zoloft-treated
Alzheimer's patients showed significant improvement on measures of depression
as well as quality of life.
In addition, those who took the antidepressant had fewer
behavioral disturbances, and their caregivers reported less distress.
Based on the results of this study, Lyketsos and colleagues are
now conducting a new study to examine the long-term effects of antidepressant
treatment in people with Alzheimer's disease and specifically looking at how
the treatment eases the burden of caregivers.
"This simple and safe treatment for depression has
tremendous potential for improving the quality of life for both Alzheimer's
patients and their caregivers," says Lyketsos.