Hackensack University Medical Center to Open Clinical Trial for Medication to Treat Alzheimer’s-Related Agitation

August 24, 2021

Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center, Center for Memory Loss and Brain Health will be participating in a multicenter clinical trial to study the safety and efficacy of escitalopram, an antidepressant, for the treatment of agitation related to Alzheimer’s disease. This study is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. Johns Hopkins University is the principal site and Hackensack University Medical Center will begin enrolling patients in the study starting in September 2021.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that results in weakened brain connections and loss of brain cells. These problems cause dementia, which may include problems with memory, thinking, mood and behavior. Mood and behavior problems may include sudden outbursts of anger, aggression or agitation.

Patients may be eligible for the study if they have received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and experience frequent agitation or aggression. The study will last approximately six months. Patients will be randomized to receive either the study drug (escitalopram) or placebo (an inactive substance) in pill form.

“Agitation associated with Alzheimer’s disease can be a challenging symptom for caregivers and patients,” said Manisha Parulekar, M.D., AGSF, FACP, Division Chief, Geriatrics. “This study aims to find out if escitalopram, a currently available medication used to treat depression and anxiety, is safe and effective in helping reduce agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Finding new ways to use existing medications can help to improve quality of life for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones,” said Mark Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center. “We are proud of our research that advances the care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.”

“Most patients with Alzheimer’s dementia develop symptoms of agitation and aggression at some point during the course of the illness. These behaviors make an already challenging diagnosis all the more difficult,” said Gary Small, M.D., Chair of Psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center and Behavioral Health Physician in Chief for Hackensack Meridian Health. “This important study will help address this difficult and common clinical condition in Alzheimer’s to improve the lives of our patients and their families.”

For more information or an interview, please contact Mary McGeever, manager of Public Relations, mary.mcgeever@hmhn.org or 551-795-1675.