Pharmacological Management of Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Linda A Hershey, Rhonda Coleman-Jackson
Drugs & Aging 2019, 36 (4): 309-319
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a complex disease that involves a variety of cognitive, behavioral and neurological symptoms, including progressive memory loss, visual hallucinations, parkinsonism, cognitive fluctuations and rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD). These symptoms may appear in varying combinations and levels of severity in each patient who is seen in the clinic, making diagnosis and treatment a challenge. DLB is the third most common of all the neurodegenerative diseases behind both Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease (PD). The median age of onset for DLB (76.3 years) is younger than that seen in PD dementia (81.4 years). New pathological studies have shown that most DLB patients have variable amounts of Alzheimer's changes in their brains, explaining the wide variability in this disease's clinical presentation and clinical course. This review discusses the three cholinesterase inhibitors that have been shown to be effective in managing the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of DLB: rivastigmine, galantamine and donepezil. Memantine is able to improve clinical global impression of change in those with mild to moderate DLB. Levodopa can treat the parkinsonism of some DLB patients, but the dose is often limited due to the fact that it can cause agitation or worsening of visual hallucinations. A recent phase 2 clinical trial showed the benefit of zonisamide when it is added as an adjunct to levodopa for treating DLB parkinsonism. While atypical antipsychotic drugs may not always be helpful as monotherapy in managing the agitation associated with DLB, low doses of valproic acid can be effective when added as an adjunct to drugs like quetiapine. Pimavanserin may prove to be a useful treatment for psychosis in DLB patients, but like other antipsychotic drugs that are used in dementia patients, there is a small increased risk of mortality. RBD, which is a common core clinical feature of DLB, can be managed with either melatonin or clonazepam. Two agents targeting alpha-synuclein (NPT200-11 and ambroxol) currently hold promise as disease-modifying therapies for DLB, but they are yet to be tested in clinical trials. An agent (E2027) that offers hope of neuroprotection by increasing central cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) levels is currently being examined in clinical trials in DLB patients.

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