Study Shows That Mirtazapine Is Not an Effective Treatment For Dementia Patients

A study titled Study of Mirtazapine for Agitated Behaviours in Dementia (SYMBAD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial has found that mirtazapine, which is commonly used to treat dementia, is not effective. The drug only has a placebo effect and could increase mortality.

The researchers from the University of Plymouth who carried out the study found that that drug did not treat agitation in dementia patients. Agitation, which is commonly associated with dementia, manifests with verbal and physical aggression. It also comes with inappropriate motor, vocal, and verbal activity.

Many physicians offer non-drug interventions when treating agitation. However, they turn to medication when their approach fails. Because antipsychotics increase mortality in people with dementia, many medical professionals have turned to mirtazapine for treatment.

How scientists conducted the study

Researchers gathered 204 volunteers across the U.K with possible or probable Alzheimer’s disease. They split the participants into two groups. They gave the first one mirtazapine and gave the control group a placebo. Since the study was double-blind, neither the patient nor researcher knew which group took the actual medication.

After 12 weeks of kf treatment, the group receiving mirtazapine did not have less agitation than the control. Moreover, seven people from the group taking mirtazapine died by the 16th week. Only one from the control group died. The gap between these figures showed that they had statistical significance.

Better treatment is needed for people with dementia 

According to the lead study author and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health, Professor Sube Banerjee, the results were shocking but crucial. She pointed out that the number of people with dementia will double from 46 million in 20 years.

Treating agitation is vital as it affects the quality of life for these patients. In addition, the study shows that the current treatment for the symptom could be detrimental to a patient. For this reason, doctors should stop using the drug to treat agitation and work on finding other interventions.

Banerjee adds that the study has been instrumental in adding information on dementia and mirtazapine. The researchers hope to come up with better ways to treat agitations in people with dementia.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

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