Objective: To investigate the efficacy and safety of nabilone for agitation in patients with moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Design: This 14-week randomized double-blind crossover trial compared nabilone to placebo (6 weeks each) with a 1-week washout between phases.
Setting: Patients were recruited from a long-term care facility and geriatric psychiatry clinics.
Participants: Patients had AD (standardized Mini-Mental State Examination [sMMSE ≤24]) and agitation (Neuropsychiatric Inventory-Nursing Home version [NPI-NH]-agitation/aggression subscore ≥3).
Intervention: Nabilone (target 1-2 mg) versus placebo.
Measurements: The primary outcome was agitation (Cohen Mansfield Agitation Inventory [CMAI]). Secondary outcomes included NPI-NH total, NPI-NH caregiver distress, cognition (sMMSE and Severe Impairment Battery [SIB] or Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale of Cognition), global impression (Clinician's Global Impression of Change [CGIC]), and adverse events.
Results: Thirty-nine patients (mean ± SD age = 87 ± 10, sMMSE = 6.5 ± 6.8, CMAI = 67.9 ± 17.6, NPI-NH total = 34.3 ± 15.8, 77% male, nabilone dose = 1.6 ± 0.5 mg) were randomized. There were no crossover or treatment-order effects. Using a linear mixed model, treatment differences (95% CI) in CMAI (b = -4.0 [-6.5 to -1.5], t(30.2) = -3.3, p = 0.003), NPI-NH total (b = -4.6 [-7.5 to -1.6], t(32.9) = -3.1, p = 0.004), NPI-NH caregiver distress (b = -1.7 [-3.4 to -0.07, t(33.7) = -2.1, p = 0.041), and sMMSE (b = 1.1 [0.1-2.0], t(22.6) = 2.4, p = 0.026) all favored nabilone. However, in those who completed the SIB (n = 25) treatment differences favored placebo (b = -4.6 [-7.3 to -1.8], t(20.7) = -4.8, p = 0.003). CGIC improvement during nabilone (47%) and placebo (23%) was not significantly different (McNemar's test, exact p = 0.09). There was more sedation during nabilone (45%) compared to placebo (16%) phases (McNemar's test, exact p = 0.02), but treatment-limiting sedation was not significantly different (McNemar's test, exact p = 0.22).
Conclusions: Nabilone may be an effective treatment for agitation. However, sedation and cognition should be closely monitored.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; aggression; agitation; cannabinoid; dementia; nabilone; neuropsychiatric symptoms; randomized controlled trial.
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.