A study led by UEA has suggested that the drug memantine does not sufficiently decrease agitation in people who have Alzheimer’s.

Agitation places a particular strain on patients, carers and families, and can manifest itself in behaviour such as excessive pacing and screaming. Dr Chris Fox, of the Norwich Medical School at UEA, headed the research alongside colleagues from other universities.

The study was the first randomised controlled trial to investigate the usefulness of memantine, a drug recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), against agitation. 153 acute Alzheimer’s patients were studied from September 2007 to May 2010. Half were given memantine and the others a placebo. The memantine group developed improved cognitive function but there was no significant difference in agitation.

Fox said: “People who have mild symptoms often respond to changes in the environment or psychological treatment, but these methods are impractical in severe agitation. Our findings regarding memantine are disappointing with respect to severe agitation – particularly as the alternative antipsychotic medications can have significant side effects such as increased rates of stroke and death. However, we hope our study will highlight the urgent need for investment in safe and effective new treatments for this growing disease.”