A study has found a new drug that combines a cough suppressant with a heart medication could help calm restlessness

Agitation and restlessness can be a worrying symptom of dementia, particularly in the mid and later stages of the condition, but now a new drug could help to relieve it according to a study of 200 people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug – called Nuedexta – eased agitation symptoms over 10 weeks, and didn’t worsen patients’ problems with memory, thinking and judgement. The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Agitation usually manifests as restlessness, pacing, yelling, destroying objects and aggression and fighting.

‘If those issues can be managed without medication, that’s always best,’ says Dr Sam Gandy, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. But there are occasions when anti-psychotic drugs are prescribed to manage the symptoms, the use of which has not been without controversy.

Nuedexta contains dextromethorphan, which is a cough suppressant and quinidine, which treats abnormal heart rhythms.

This is just an early study and dementia researchers admit that it’s too soon to know for sure how effective the drug could be in the long term.

‘A much larger clinical trial is needed before people can trust in the benefit seen here,’ says Anne Corbett, a researcher from King’s College London, who co-wrote an editorial published alongside the study.

It’s also worth remembering that Nuedexta, while licensed for use in the UK, is not officially launched in this country yet. We’ll keep you informed if anything changes on that front.

If the person you care for has bouts of restlessness of agitation, it’s worth trying to find out if there’s a particular reason, and ways that you can help to ease it. Click here for ideas.