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Mental Health

Abilify and Treatment of Dementia

07/30/2007

Question:

My 76-year-old mother has recently been diagnosed with mild Alzheimer`s Disease by her GP and neurologist. Her GP also suspects that she may be displaying symptoms of schizophrenia, which seems quite consistent with her behaviors, both short-term and long-term. He wants to put her on Abilify, which concerns me. She has a history of CVD, having a stent placed 2 years ago in an artery that was 98% blocked. Her recent MRI also shows evidence of multiple small strokes over the years. Would she be at higher risk for heart attack/stroke if she were to take this medication?

Answer:

Medications like Abilify have been used for many years for the behavior disturbances associated with dementia. The symptoms like hallucinations/delusions that exist in schizophrenia are similar to that in some individuals with dementia. It appears that multiinfarct dementia is the dementia your mother is experiencing, or at least it is coexisting with another type of dementia.

Assuming other treatments for dementia have already been started, an antipsychotic (including Abilify) is a consideration. It is good that a neurologist is involved with the case. There have been some risks identified with these treatments (see FDA website below) but the benefits of Abilify or another agent might outweigh these risks. A discussion with the physicians involved can better help you weigh the options.

Related Resources:

FDA Public Health Advisory
(Deaths with Antipsychotics in Elderly Patients with Behavioral Disturbances)

For more information:

Go to the Mental Health health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Nicholas A Votolato, RPh BCPP Nicholas A Votolato, RPh BCPP
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy
College of Pharmacy
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University