North Texas

Calming Agitation in Alzheimer's Patients

A clinical trial at Miami Jewish health studying a drug to help Alzheimer's patients with agitation

An estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. And that number is expected to grow to 14 million by the year 2050. So far, there is no cure, but scientists continue to look for therapies that would slow the progress of some symptoms.

After 60 years of marriage, Frank and Juanita Buggs have made many memories together.

"We have two children and four grandchildren and two great grandchildren,"  Frank said.

But 10 years ago, Frank noticed changes in his wife's memory. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Marc Agronin, Senior Vice President for Behavioral Health at Miami Jewish Health says the disease can start with short-term memory deficits, but then progresses. And because Alzheimer's causes inflammation in the brain it can also lead to behavioral changes.

"We see changes in mood, people get very reactive to situations, stressful situations, they get very anxious or sometimes depressed," said Agronin.

At night, Juanita gets aggravated when Frank is trying to give her her medication.

"'Why am I taking this? Who told you to give this to me?'" Frank explained the questions he got from Juanita.

Frank found out about a clinical trial at Miami Jewish health studying a drug to help Alzheimer's patients with agitation.

"She participated in the double blind, placebo-controlled portion of the study," said Ricardo D. Castañeda, PharmD, Director Of Clinical Research & Business Development at Miami Jewish Health.

Now Juanita gets the experimental drug by Avanir pharmaceuticals as part of the open label extension.

"It's going to help somebody," Frank told Ivanhoe.

Frank knows this medication may not mean big changes for Juanita, but he has his eye on the future. "We just need to find a cure soon," he said.

Giving hope to other patients down the road.

Researchers are also studying stem cell therapy and immunotherapy, using the body's own immune system to attack the disease, in the fight against Alzheimer’s. For more information on prevention call 305-514-8710, or for the latest on clinical trials please visit or

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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