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Study Asserts Need for New Treatments for Delirium

Last Updated: July 09, 2009.

Research and therapies are lacking for common condition, expert says.

THURSDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- No effective way to prevent or treat delirium in hospital patients has yet been developed, even though the problem causes major health and financial burdens, say U.S. experts who conducted a review of the scientific literature on delirium prevention and treatment.

Each year in the United States, as many as 7 million hospitalized adults experience delirium, a state of confusion caused by a sudden alteration of mental status. Though delirium is not the same as dementia, people with dementia are more likely to suffer delirium while in the hospital.

"Having delirium prolongs the length of a hospital stay, increases the risk of post-hospitalization transfer to a nursing home and doubles the risk of death," Dr. Malaz Boustani, of Wishard Health Services in Indianapolis, said in a news release from the Indiana University School of Medicine. "We need to identify a safe and effective drug to prevent and treat delirium. With our review, we are challenging the scientific community to come up with new therapeutic options."

In their review, Boustani and his research colleagues found that only 13 randomized controlled studies on 15 promising drugs for delirium were conducted between January 1966 and October 2008. None of the drugs were effective in preventing delirium, they noted in their study, published in the July issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Currently, there are no approved drugs available in the United States to prevent or manage delirium.

"Research on delirium is at a point similar to where Alzheimer's disease research was 30 years ago," Boustani said. "The scientific and policy communities should encourage the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to provide guidance regarding the evaluation of potential new therapies for delirium. Hopefully this will promote rapid drug discovery and translation into delivery for patient care."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about delirium.

SOURCE: Indiana University School of Medicine, news release, July 6, 2009

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