Objectives: Agitation/aggression in Alzheimer disease (AD) is a major cause of patient distress, caregiver burden, and institutionalization. Enhanced behavioral responsiveness to central nervous system norepinephrine (NE) release may contribute to the pathophysiology of agitation/aggression in AD. Prazosin, a nonsedating generic medication used for hypertension and benign prostatic hypertrophy, antagonizes NE effects at brain postsynaptic alpha-1 adrenoreceptors. This pilot study examined the efficacy and tolerability of prazosin for behavioral symptoms in patients with agitation/aggression in AD.
Design: Double-blind, placebo controlled, parallel group study.
Setting: A university AD center and a nursing home in Seattle, WA.
Participants: Twenty-two nursing home and community-dwelling participants with agitation/aggression and probable or possible AD (mean age: 80.6 +/- 11.2).
Intervention: Randomization to placebo (N = 11) or prazosin (N = 11). Medication was initiated at 1 mg/day and increased up to 6 mg/day using a flexible dosing algorithm.
Measurements: The Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) and Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) at Weeks 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8. The Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) at Week 8.
Results: Participants taking prazosin (mean dose: 5.7 +/- 0.9 mg/day) had greater improvements than those taking placebo (mean dose: 5.6 +/- 1.2 mg/day) on the NPI (mean change: -19 +/- 21 versus -2 +/- 15, chi = 6.32, df = 1, p = 0.012) and BPRS (mean change: -9 +/- 9 versus -3 +/- 5, chi = 4.42, df = 1, p = 0.036) based on linear mixed effects models and the CGIC (mean: 2.6 +/- 1.0 versus 4.5 +/- 1.6, z = 2.57, p = 0.011 [Mann-Whitney test]). Adverse effects and blood pressure changes were similar between prazosin and placebo groups.
Conclusion: Prazosin was well tolerated and improved behavioral symptoms in patients with agitation/aggression in AD.