Effect of Divalproex Sodium on Behavioural and Cognitive Problems in Elderly Dementia
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Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) occur in up to 90% of individuals with dementia at some point in their illness. BPSD reduce patient quality of life, cause great distress to caregivers and are the most common reason for institutionalisation. In nursing homes, pharmacological measures (usually antipsychotics or benzodiazepines) are often required to control agitation and aggression in patients with dementia. However, no medications have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for this indication as yet. The antiepileptic agent divalproex sodium may have advantages in this setting because of lower rates of drug interactions and adverse effects in this patient population.
The aim of the study was to assess the impact of treatment with divalproex sodium on behavioural, mood and cognitive measures in a population of elderly nursing home residents with a history of behaviour problems associated with dementia.
Materials and methods
The study was a retrospective analysis of a long-term care database which allowed assessment of the impact of divalproex sodium therapy on behavioural, mood and cognitive measures in elderly nursing home residents with a history of dementia-related behaviour problems. Minimum Data Set items relating to problems of behaviour, cognition and mood were collected prior to and after divalproex sodium treatment over a 1-year period. Two-phase generalised linear regression, with fixed intersections at the time of divalproex sodium initiation, was used to estimate trends in each measure prior to and after divalproex sodium initiation. Monotherapy, combination therapy with benzodiazepines and antipsychotics, and dose comparisons of divalproex sodium were studied.
In all three situations (i.e. as monotherapy, in combination with benzodiazepines and antipsychotics, and at both higher and lower doses), divalproex sodium therapy was shown to have multiple beneficial effects on various behavioural, mood and cognition indicators in elderly nursing home residents. In general, the data seemed to support more favourable results for the higher divalproex sodium dose group.
These data support the use of divalproex sodium in elderly nursing home residents with a history of dementia and behaviour problems and warrant conduct of prospective, randomised trials of the drug in this setting.
Funding from Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, IL, USA was provided for this project.
The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this study.
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