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 Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia are sit inside the Alzheimer foundation in Mexico City (photo credit: EDGARD GARRIDO/ REUTERS)
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(photo credit: EDGARD GARRIDO/ REUTERS)

There is "good evidence" that noradrenergic drugs, a class of compounds that includes treatment for depression, hypertension and the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug Ritalin, could help treat selected symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study claims.

30 years, 10 trials, 1300 patients 

The research, conducted by a team at Imperial College London, examined the evidence around the efficacy of noradrenergic compounds, which modify the brain’s release of the hormone norepinephrine. Findings were published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

“There is a strong rationale for further, targeted clinical trials of noradrenergic treatments in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Imperial College of London researchers

The study included 10 clinical trials regarding 1,300 patients published between 1980 and 2021 involving noradrenergic drugs that had been used to potentially improve cognitive or neuropsychiatric symptoms in people with neurodegenerative disease.

The antidepressant drug Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, is seen on a table in Leicester, central England February 26, 2008 in this posed photograph. (credit: REUTERS/DARREN STAPLES)The antidepressant drug Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, is seen on a table in Leicester, central England February 26, 2008 in this posed photograph. (credit: REUTERS/DARREN STAPLES)

Overall, the researchers included 19 randomized controlled trials involving 1,811 participants that focused on noradrenergic drugs in Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment. Six trials were judged to be good quality; seven were considered fair and six were considered poor. Nine studies involved norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors, with five of them examining Ritalin.

"Most likely to offer effective treatment in Alzheimer's" 

Results showed a small but significant positive effect of noradrenergic drugs on overall cognition, as measured by the Mini-Mental State Exam or the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale.

“Repurposing of established noradrenergic drugs is most likely to offer effective treatment in Alzheimer’s disease for general cognition and apathy,” the researchers said. “There is a strong rationale for further, targeted clinical trials of noradrenergic treatments in Alzheimer’s disease.”