Importance: Agitation is common among patients with Alzheimer disease; safe, effective treatments are lacking.
Objective: To assess the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of dextromethorphan hydrobromide-quinidine sulfate for Alzheimer disease-related agitation.
Design, setting, and participants: Phase 2 randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial using a sequential parallel comparison design with 2 consecutive 5-week treatment stages conducted August 2012-August 2014. Patients with probable Alzheimer disease, clinically significant agitation (Clinical Global Impressions-Severity agitation score ≥4), and a Mini-Mental State Examination score of 8 to 28 participated at 42 US study sites. Stable dosages of antidepressants, antipsychotics, hypnotics, and antidementia medications were allowed.
Interventions: In stage 1, 220 patients were randomized in a 3:4 ratio to receive dextromethorphan-quinidine (n = 93) or placebo (n = 127). In stage 2, patients receiving dextromethorphan-quinidine continued; those receiving placebo were stratified by response and rerandomized in a 1:1 ratio to dextromethorphan-quinidine (n = 59) or placebo (n = 60).
Main outcomes and measures: The primary end point was change from baseline on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) Agitation/Aggression domain (scale range, 0 [absence of symptoms] to 12 [symptoms occur daily and with marked severity]).
Results: A total of 194 patients (88.2%) completed the study. With the sequential parallel comparison design, 152 patients received dextromethorphan-quinidine and 127 received placebo during the study. Analysis combining stages 1 (all patients) and 2 (rerandomized placebo nonresponders) showed significantly reduced NPI Agitation/Aggression scores for dextromethorphan-quinidine vs placebo (ordinary least squares z statistic, -3.95; P < .001). In stage 1, mean NPI Agitation/Aggression scores were reduced from 7.1 to 3.8 with dextromethorphan-quinidine and from 7.0 to 5.3 with placebo. Between-group treatment differences were significant in stage 1 (least squares mean, -1.5; 95% CI, -2.3 to -0.7; P<.001). In stage 2, NPI Agitation/Aggression scores were reduced from 5.8 to 3.8 with dextromethorphan-quinidine and from 6.7 to 5.8 with placebo. Between-group treatment differences were also significant in stage 2 (least squares mean, -1.6; 95% CI, -2.9 to -0.3; P=.02). Adverse events included falls (8.6% for dextromethorphan-quinidine vs 3.9% for placebo), diarrhea (5.9% vs 3.1% respectively), and urinary tract infection (5.3% vs 3.9% respectively). Serious adverse events occurred in 7.9% with dextromethorphan-quinidine vs 4.7% with placebo. Dextromethorphan-quinidine was not associated with cognitive impairment, sedation, or clinically significant QTc prolongation.
Conclusions and relevance: In this preliminary 10-week phase 2 randomized clinical trial of patients with probable Alzheimer disease, combination dextromethorphan-quinidine demonstrated clinically relevant efficacy for agitation and was generally well tolerated.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01584440.