A study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, suggested recently that two antidepressants commonly given to patients with Alzheimer’s disease are not only ineffective but also cause side effects such as nausea and drowsiness.

The study focused on the drugs sertraline (Pfizer’s Zoloft) and mirtazapine (Remeron). These two classes of drugs are often prescribed to treat depression in Alzheimer’s patients, and following results from the study, were found to be “no more effective than the placebo,” said the study’s researchers. Given these findings, researchers are urging physicians to reconsider the way they treat depression in Alzheimer’s patients and to back away from the routine prescription antidepressants.

The study focused on a group of 326 Alzheimer’s patients from nine different clinical centers in Britain, all of whom had been diagnosed with depression lasting for at least four weeks. Patients were divided into three separate groups, 107 were given sertraline, 108 mirtazapine and 111 a placebo. At the end of a 39 week period, researchers found no significant differences among the groups. In fact, the patients who received one of the two antidepressants experienced more adverse reactions compared to those who took only a placebo.

No drugs currently exist that can alter or stop the course of Alzheimer’s, a disease which affects more than 25 million individuals worldwide.

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