A double-blind comparison of citalopram and risperidone for the treatment of behavioral and psychotic symptoms associated with dementia

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2007 Nov;15(11):942-52. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3180cc1ff5. Epub 2007 Sep 10.


Objective: To compare citalopram and risperidone for the treatment of psychotic symptoms and agitation associated with dementia, with a priori hypotheses that risperidone would be more efficacious for psychosis and citalopram for agitation.

Methods: A 12-week randomized, controlled trial in nondepressed patients with dementia hospitalized because of behavioral symptoms (N = 103) was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Participants were consecutively recruited on an inpatient unit if they had at least one moderate to severe target symptom (aggression, agitation, hostility, suspiciousness, hallucinations, or delusions). Once they improved sufficiently, they were discharged to nursing homes, personal care homes, or residential homes for continued treatment. Planned pre-post and mixed model analyses of the main outcome measures of Neurobehavioral Rating Scale and Side Effect Rating Scale at baseline and at weekly/biweekly intervals were conducted.

Results: Completion rates did not differ for citalopram and risperidone (overall completion rate: 44%). Agitation symptoms (aggression, agitation, or hostility) and psychotic symptoms (suspiciousness, hallucinations, or delusions) decreased in both treatment groups but the improvement did not differ significantly between the two groups. There was a significant increase in side effect burden with risperidone but not with citalopram such that the two groups differed significantly.

Conclusion: No statistical difference was found in the efficacy of citalopram and risperidone for the treatment of either agitation or psychotic symptoms in patients with dementia. These findings need to be replicated before citalopram or other serotonergic antidepressants can be recommended as alternatives to antipsychotics for the treatment of agitation or psychotic symptoms associated with dementia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Citalopram / adverse effects
  • Citalopram / therapeutic use*
  • Dementia / drug therapy*
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Dropouts / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychomotor Agitation / diagnosis
  • Psychomotor Agitation / drug therapy*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / psychology
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Risperidone / adverse effects
  • Risperidone / therapeutic use*
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram
  • Risperidone