Conference Coverage

Antipsychotic cuts Alzheimer’s-related agitation


AT AAGP 2023

NEW ORLEANS - The antipsychotic brexpiprazole effectively improves agitation associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with favorable tolerability, results of a phase 3 study suggest.

“In this phase 3 trial of patients with agitation in Alzheimer’s dementia, treatment with brexpiprazole 2 or 3 mg/day resulted in statistically significantly greater improvements in agitation versus placebo on the primary and key secondary endpoints,” said study investigator George Grossberg, MD, professor and director of the division of geriatric psychiatry, department of psychiatry & behavioral neuroscience, Saint Louis University.

Dr. Grossberg presented the findings as part of the annual meeting of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry.

Agitation common, distressing

With two previous studies also showing efficacy of brexpiprazole in AD-related agitation, Dr. Grossberg speculated that brexpiprazole will become the first drug to be approved for agitation in AD.

Agitation is one of the most common AD symptoms and is arguably the most distressing for patients and caregivers alike, Dr. Grossberg noted.

The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 as an adjunctive therapy to antidepressants for adults with major depressive disorder and for adults with schizophrenia.

To investigate the drug at effective doses for AD-related agitation, the researchers conducted a phase 3 multicenter trial that included 345 patients with AD who met criteria for agitation and aggression.

Study participants had a mean Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score between 5 and 22 at screening and baseline and a mean Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) total score of about 79. A score above 45 is considered clinically significant agitation. Use of AD medications were permitted.

Patients had a mean age of 74 years and were randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to receive treatment with brexpiprazole 2 mg (n = 75) or 3 mg (n = 153) per day, or placebo (n = 117).

The study’s primary endpoint was improvement as assessed by the CMAI. Over 12 weeks, participants in the brexpiprazole group experienced greater improvement in agitation, with a mean change of –22.6 with brexpiprazole vs. –17.3 with placebo (P = .0026).

Brexpiprazole was also associated with significantly greater improvement in the secondary outcome of change from baseline to week 12 in agitation severity, as assessed using the Clinical Global Impression-Severity of Illness (CGI-S) score (mean change, –1.20 with brexpiprazole vs. –0.93 with placebo; P = .0078).

Specifically, treatment with the drug resulted in improvements in three key subscales of agitation, including aggressive behavior, such as physically striking out (P < .01 vs. placebo); physically nonaggressive; and verbally agitated, such as screaming or cursing (both P < .05).

Treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) associated with brexpiprazole vs. placebo included somnolence (3.5% vs. 0.9%), nasopharyngitis (3.1% vs. 1.7%), dizziness (2.7% vs. 1.7%), diarrhea (2.2% vs. 0.9%), urinary tract infection (2.2% vs. 0.9%), and asthenia (2.2% vs. 0.0%).

“Aside from headache, no other TEAEs had an incidence of more than 5% in the brexpiprazole (2 or 3 mg) group, or in either dose group,” Dr. Grossberg said. “Cognition also remained stable,” he added.


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