Recent developments in geriatric psychopharmacology

Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2021 Mar;14(3):341-355. doi: 10.1080/17512433.2021.1882848. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


Introduction: There is a tremendous growing need to address the burden of geriatric psychiatric disorders. Recent developments relevant to geriatric psychiatry have focused on Alzheimer's disease (AD), severe/refractory depression, and cancer/end of life care.

Areas covered: This is a non-systematic, narrative review (databases and websites for search: PubMed, Google Scholar, Medscape,; focusing on the last 6 years), and covers developments in disease-modifying therapies for AD, diagnostic radiotracers for AD, medications for neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia, ketamine/esketamine, psychedelics, and cannabinoids.

Expert opinion: The focus of on-going trials of anti-amyloid agents has been on individuals with very early stage AD; several agents are under phase 3 investigation, and aducanumab is under FDA review. Amyloid and tau PET scans have been approved by the FDA to assist in the diagnoses of AD. Promising pharmaceuticals for neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia include pimavanserin, brexpiprazole, escitalopram, dextromethorphan/quinidine, and lithium. Esketamine, although approved for treatment-resistant depression in general adults, failed to demonstrate efficacy in elderly patients in a phase 3 trial. There is preliminary evidence for benefit of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy in end-of-life and cancer-related depression/anxiety. Evidence for the use of cannabinoids is currently lacking.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Geriatric psychiatry; anti-amyloid agents; cannabinoids; dementia; diagnostic radiotracers; esketamine; neuropsychiatric symptoms; psychedelics; psychopharmacology; treatment-resistant depression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Terminal Care / methods


  • Psychotropic Drugs