Alzheimer's disease, antidepressant drugs help in recovery of stroke victims: researchers

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Oct 23, 2015 06:00 AM EDT

One out of 20 deaths in the U.S. is caused by stroke, amounting to about 130,000 Americans annually, the CDC reports. Recently, more evidence has surfaced that drugs for depression and Alzheimer's disease may be beneficial to stroke patients.

EurekAlert reports that a study published in the journal Drugs and Aging, conducted by neurologists Xabier Beristain, MD, and Esteban Golombievski, MD, of Loyola University Medical Center and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine show mixed findings on whether or not such drugs may really be helpful, and that researchers recommend further large, well-designed studies to support these claims.

"These medications have not yet been clearly proven to be of benefit to patients recovering from strokes," Dr. Beristain explained. The researches wrote in the study, "The limitations of these rehabilitation efforts have sparked an interest in finding other ways to enhance neurological recovery."

According to the University Herald, researchers analzyed 56 clinical trials of elective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs (such as Prozac, Paxil and Celexa), which are commonly used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders, and results revealed that these drugs improved dependence, disability, neurological impairment, anxiety and depression following stroke. Researchers warn, though, that these findings should be taken with caution as the studies have different designs. Meanwhile, additional clinical trials are currently being conducted to evaluate the use of antidepressants to boost stroke recovery.

Study authors claim that there are evidence that medication for Alzheimer's disease called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (including Aricept, Exelon and Razadyne) may improve aphasia in stroke patients. Aphasia is defined by Mayo Clinic as a condition that disables a person to communicate through speaking and writing, and understanding language.

Another type of Alzheimer's disease drugs called memantine is also currently being studied. Memantine has shown language benefits that lasted for a year when used in combination with therapy. However, there isn't much study on how memantine may benefit stroke recovery patients.

Antidepressants have been shown to be promising in improving motor recovery, while Alzheimer's disease drugs show benefit in boosting recovery from aphasia. According to researchers, about one out of three stroke patients suffer from depression, thereby limiting the patient's ability to participate in rehabilitation. However, evidence suggests that SSRIs may help neurological recovery more than just affecting their mood. Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NRI) has also shown to have benefit stroke patients.

Study authors recommend, "We need well-designed, large clinical trials with enough power to establish the usefulness of medications as adjuvants to rehabilitation before we can routinely recommend the use of these agents to enhance neurological recovery after stroke."

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