A study has found that the Parkinson’s medication Nuplazid can curb delusions in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia. Researchers announced the study’s results at a San Diego conference on January 1, 2020.
“This would be a very important advance,” said Dr. Howard Fillit of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
Maria Carillo of the Alzheimer’s Association said “there is a huge unmet need for better treatment” for those who have dementia now.
Pimavanserin is sold as Nuplazid by Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Parkinson’s-related psychosis in 2016. It is believed to function by blocking a chemical in the brain which seems to cause delusions. It could become the first medication specifically intended to treat dementia-related psychosis as well as the first new Alzheimer’s medication in almost 20 years.
The study involved about 400 people with psychosis and dementia. All of them were given low doses of the drug for a period of three months. All of the people who responded to or benefited from the drug were then split into two groups. Half kept taking the drug while the others were given placebo pills for six months or until their symptoms relapsed or worsened. The patients and doctors didn’t know who was getting pimavanserin pills and who was getting placebos.
The study was stopped by independent monitors when they saw those on the placebo pills were over twice as likely to experience a relapse or worsening of symptoms.
Around 8 million Americans suffer from dementia and up to 30% of them eventually develop psychosis.
“You believe that people might be trying to hurt you. You believe that people are stealing from you. You believe that your spouse is unfaithful to you. Those are the three most common false beliefs,” said the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Jeffrey Cummings. “It’s terrifying.”
Nuplazid can apparently help prevent hallucinations which can preclude physical abuse, verbal abuse, aggression and anxiety.
Nuplazid found its way into the news in April 2018 when CNN reported that over 700 deaths had been associated with the drugs. The FDA had mandated that Nuplazid’s label contain a Boxed Warning upon the drug’s release. A Boxed Warning is the FDA’s strongest form of warning. The FDA mandated that the drug’s label warn about increased mortality in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis.
The medication costs about $3,000 per month. The amounts that patients end up paying will vary from insurance to insurance.