Allopurinol for the treatment of aggressive behaviour in patients with dementia

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Aggressive behaviour is commonly observed in patients with dementia, and current pharmacological treatments are still deficient in terms of efficacy and tolerability. Allopurinol is an inhibitor of the enzyme xanthine oxidase, with previously suggested anti-aggressive effects. After successful treatment of aggression in two patients, we performed a case-series study with allopurinol 300 mg a day orally for 6 weeks (increasing 300 mg every 2 weeks if the response was less than 50%) in six patients with dementia associated with prominent aggressive behaviour who failed to respond to two previous treatment strategies. Five patients were considerably responsive to allopurinol (four with 300 mg within 2 weeks and one with 600 mg), apparently without side-effects, which is in accordance with its well-established safety and tolerability profile. The observed therapeutic effect of allopurinol might be due to the inhibition of the enzyme xanthine oxidase, possibly decreasing production of oxigen-free radicals or promoting the accumulation of purines. Controlled studies are warranted to confirm these preliminary observations.

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