A pragmatic, multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial to assess the safety, clinical and cost-effectiveness of mirtazapine and carbamazepine in people with Alzheimer’s disease and agitated behaviours: the HTA-SYMBAD trial
Banerjee S, Farina N, Henderson C, High J, Stirling S, Shepstone L, Fountain J, Ballard C, Bentham P, Burns A, Fox C, Francis P, Howard R, Knapp M, Leroi I, Livingston G, Nilforooshan R, Nurock S, O'Brien J, Price A, Thomas AJ, Swart AM, Telling T, Tabet N
Record ID 32018005316
Authors' objectives: Agitation is common and impacts negatively on people with dementia and carers. Non-drug patient-centred care is first-line treatment, but we need other treatment when this fails. Current evidence is sparse on safer and effective alternatives to antipsychotics. To assess clinical and cost-effectiveness and safety of mirtazapine and carbamazepine in treating agitation in dementia. Agitation is common in people with dementia and impacts negatively on the quality of life of both people with dementia and carers. Non-drug patient-centred care is the first-line treatment, but there is a need for other treatment when this fails. Current evidence is sparse on safer and effective alternatives to antipsychotics. We assessed efficacy and safety of mirtazapine (an antidepressant) and carbamazepine (an anticonvulsant) prescribed for agitation in dementia.
Authors' results and conclusions: Two hundred and forty-four participants recruited and randomised (102 mirtazapine, 102 placebo, 40 carbamazepine). The carbamazepine arm was discontinued due to slow overall recruitment; carbamazepine/placebo analyses are therefore statistically underpowered and not detailed in the abstract. Mean difference placebo-mirtazapine (−1.74, 95% confidence interval −7.17 to 3.69; p = 0.53). Harms: The number of controls with adverse events (65/102, 64%) was similar to the mirtazapine group (67/102, 66%). However, there were more deaths in the mirtazapine group (n = 7) by week 16 than in the control group (n = 1). Post hoc analysis suggests this was of marginal statistical significance (p = 0.065); this difference did not persist at 6- and 12-month assessments. At 12 weeks, the costs of unpaid care by the dyadic carer were significantly higher in the mirtazapine than placebo group [difference: £1120 (95% confidence interval £56 to £2184)]. In the cost-effectiveness analyses, mean raw and adjusted outcome scores and costs of the complete cases samples showed no differences between groups. The data suggest mirtazapine is not clinically or cost-effective (compared to placebo) for agitation in dementia. There is little reason to recommend mirtazapine for people with dementia with agitation. Between January 2017 and February 2020, 204 participants were recruited and randomised to either the mirtazapine (n = 102) or placebo arm (n = 102). Mean CMAI scores at 12 weeks were not significantly different between participants allocated to receive mirtazapine and placebo [adjusted mean difference −1.74, 95% confidence interval (CI) −7.17 to 3.69; p = 0.53, direction of change in favour of mirtazapine but not statistically significant]. The number of controls with adverse events [65/102 (64%)] was similar to that in the mirtazapine group [67/102 (66%)]. There were more deaths in the mirtazapine group (n = 7) by week 16 than in the control group (n = 1), with post hoc analysis suggesting this was of marginal statistical significance (p = 0.065), but this difference did not persist at 6- and 12-month follow-ups. The cost-effectiveness analyses similarly showed no evidence of benefit of mirtazapine over placebo, and no difference in costs between groups at 12 weeks. The carbamazepine arm closed in August 2018 when there had been 40 randomisations to that group, we therefore do not have statistical power for comparisons with placebo. However, exploratory analyses using the same modelling as for mirtazapine versus placebo showed there was also little evidence of any benefits compared to placebo (adjusted mean difference 2.46, 95% CI −5.01 to 9.93; p = 0.52), with similar levels of adverse events reported [27/40 (68%)]. This is a trial with negative findings but important clinical implications. The data suggest that mirtazapine is not clinically effective or cost-effective (compared to placebo) for clinically significant agitation in dementia. Our findings suggest that there is little reason to recommend the use of mirtazapine for people with dementia who experience agitation. Effective and cost-effective management strategies for agitation in dementia are needed, particularly where non-pharmacological approaches have been unsuccessful, and for people with dementia and their carers living in community settings.
Authors' methods: Pragmatic, phase III, multicentre, double-blind, superiority, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of the clinical effectiveness of mirtazapine over 12 weeks (carbamazepine arm discontinued). Twenty-six UK secondary care centres. Eligibility: probable or possible Alzheimer’s disease, agitation unresponsive to non-drug treatment, Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory score ≥ 45. Mirtazapine (target 45 mg), carbamazepine (target 300 mg) and placebo. Our study has four important potential limitations: (1) we dropped the proposed carbamazepine group; (2) the trial was not powered to investigate a mortality difference between the groups; (3) recruitment beyond February 2020, was constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic; and (4) generalisability is limited by recruitment of participants from old-age psychiatry services and care homes. Design Pragmatic, phase III, multicentre, double-blind, superiority, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of the clinical effectiveness of mirtazapine and carbamazepine over 12 weeks. Participants were drawn from existing patients and new patient referrals to old age psychiatric services, memory clinics, specific Participant Identification Centres, primary care centres and those in care homes in 26 UK sites.
Project Status: Completed
URL for project: https://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/programmes/hta/13/115/76
Year Published: 2023
URL for published report: https://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/hta/VPDT7105
URL for additional information: English
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Full HTA
Country: England, United Kingdom
- Alzheimer Disease
- Psychomotor Agitation
- Anti-Anxiety Agents
- Antidepressive Agents
- Antimanic Agents
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
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