Thousands of dementia patients could be helped by a new drug which relieves the devastating symptoms, scientists claim.
They have developed a new medication to treat the symptoms of psychosis, which include terrifying delusions or hallucinations.
Currently, many patients are given controversial antipsychotics – dubbed chemical cosh – which sedate patients without easing their symptoms.
Researchers from Exeter University believe a new drug Pimavanserin could be offered to half of the 850,000 patients with dementia in the UK (file photo)
These drugs also greatly increase the risk of falls, strokes and premature death and speed-up the decline of their memory.
Researchers from Exeter University believe the new drug Pimavanserin could be offered to half of the 850,000 patients with dementia in the UK.
Up to 850,000 people in the UK have dementia – although only two thirds have been diagnosed – and about half suffer from the symptoms of psychosis.
It is partly common in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease but also occurs in patients with less common forms of dementia.
There is currently no safe nor effective treatment available for psychosis and the symptoms are extremely distressing for patients and their families.
An early trial of Pimavanserin published in the Lancet Neurology journal found that it significantly reduced patients’ symptoms without causing harm.
Professor Clive Ballard, who specialises in Age-Related Diseases at the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research, said: ‘Psychosis is a particularly terrifying symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.
‘People may experience paranoia, or see, hear or smell things that are not there. It’s distressing both for those experiencing the delusions and for their carers.
‘It’s particularly encouraging that most benefit was seen in those with the most severe psychotic symptom, as this group is most likely to be prescribed antipsychotics. We are talking about vulnerable elderly, frail people who are suffering terrifying symptoms, being sedated with current antipsychotics even though its well-known that they cause terrible health issues and even death in people with dementia, and have very little benefit.
There is currently no safe nor effective treatment available for psychosis and the symptoms are extremely distressing. Half of all dementia sufferers experience symptoms of psychosis
The trial involved 181 patients with Alzhiemer’s Disease of whom half were given Pimavanserin and half a placebo.
The treatment will now undergo further tests as part of a much larger study in the US, to assess is safety and effectiveness in a wider group of patients.
It works in a very different way to the currently-used antipsychotics and blocks a specific nerve ending in the brain, which is responsible for the symptoms.
Dr Doug Brown, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Around 50 per cent of people with dementia experience symptoms of psychosis, which is frightening and distressing for them as well as their carers.
‘This study suggests Pimavanserin can reduce symptoms of psychosis in people with Alzheimer’s, and it seems to avoid the heavy sedation or worsening of other symptoms associated with other anti-psychotic drugs.
‘Further testing is needed to determine if it has other side-effects, as it’s vital that any treatment reduces psychosis symptoms, but without negatively impacting the person’s quality of life. This is important progress in an area where new treatments are desperately needed, and we look forward to seeing the results of the next phase of testing.’