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.