Antipsychotics in Alzheimer's disease: A critical analysis

Antipsychoticos na doença de Alzheimer: uma análise crítica

Eduardo Marques da Silva Rafaela de Castro Oliveira Pereira Braga Thiago Junqueira Avelino-Silva Luiz Antonio Gil JuniorAbout the authors


The estimated worldwide prevalence of dementia among adults older than 60 years of age was 3.9% in 2005. About 90% of demented patients will develop neuropsychiatric symptoms (NS) such as delirium, delusion, aggressiveness and agitation. The treatment of NS involves non-pharmacologic strategies (with varying degrees of success according to the scientific literature) and pharmacologic treatment (PT). The present review of literature examined the current role of AP in the management of NS in dementia.


A thematic review of medical literature was carried out.


313 articles were found, 39 of which were selected for critical analysis. Until 2005, the best evidence for PT had supported the use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anticholinesterases, memantine and antipsychotics (AP). In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disapproved the use of atypical APs to treat neuropsychiatric symptoms in individuals with dementia (the same occurred with the typical APs in 2008). After this, at least two important randomized placebo-controlled multicenter trials were published examining the effectiveness of atypical APs in Alzheimer's disease (CATIE-AD) and the effects of interrupting AP treatment (DART-AD).


Based on the current evidence available, APs still have a place in treatment of the more serious psychotic symptoms, after the failure of non-pharmacological treatment and of an initial approach with selective inhibitors of serotonin uptake, anticholinesterases and memantine.

Key words:
antipsychotics; dementia; side effects; Alzheimer; neuropsychiatric symptoms


A prevalência mundial de demencia entre idosos foi de 3,9% em 2005. Cerca de 90% dos dementados apresentarão sintomas como delirium, alucinações, agressividade e agitação. O tratamento dos sintomas não cognitivos envolve estratégias não farmacológicas - com sucesso variável de acordo com a literatura - e tratamento medicamentoso. A presente revisão de literatura discute o atual papel dos antipsicóticos nos sintomas neurocomportamentais de demência.


Conduzimos uma revisão temática nas principais bases de dados da literatura.


313 artigos sobre o tema foram encontrados e 39 selecionaos para compor uma análise crítica. Até 2005, as melhores evidências para tratamento medicamentoso indicavam o uso de inibidores da acetilcolinesterase memantina e antipsicóticos. Em 2005 o FDA desautorizou o uso de antipsicóticos atípicos em dementados (em 2008 fez o mesmo com os típicos). Após isto, 2 ensaios clínicos randomizados placebo-controlados foram concluídos avaliando a eficácia dos antipsicóticos atípicos em portadores de doença de Alzheimer (CATIE-AD) e os efeitos da interrupção destes (DART-AD).


Considerando as evidências atuais, os antipsicóticos ainda têm importância no manejo dos sintomas psicóticos mais sérios, após falha de tratamento não farmacológico e de uma abordagem inicial com inibidores de receptação de serotonina, anticolinesterásicos e memantina.

antipsicoticos; demencia; efeitos colaterais; Alzheimer; sintomas neuropsiquiátricos

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    Jan-Mar 2011


  • Received
    08 Dec 2010
  • Accepted
    10 Feb 2011
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