Lithium Treatment for Agitation in Alzheimer's disease (Lit-AD): Clinical rationale and study design

D. P. Devanand, Jesse G. Strickler, Edward D. Huey, Elizabeth Crocco, Brent P. Forester, Mustafa M. Husain, Ipsit V. Vahia, Howard Andrews, Melanie M. Wall, Gregory H. Pelton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Symptoms of agitation, aggression, and psychosis frequently occur in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). These symptoms are distressing to patients and caregivers, often lead to institutionalization, are associated with increased mortality, and are very difficult to treat. Lithium is an established treatment for bipolar and other psychotic disorders in which agitation can occur. The Lit-AD study is the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of lithium treatment for symptoms of agitation or aggression, with or without psychosis, in older adults diagnosed with AD. Patients are randomly assigned to low dose (150–600 mg) lithium or placebo, targeting a blood level of 0.2–0.6 mmol/L, stratified by the presence/absence of psychotic symptoms. The study duration for each patient is 12 weeks. The primary study outcome is change in the agitation/aggression domain score on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) over the study period. The secondary outcome is improvement in neuropsychiatric symptoms defined as a 30% decrease in a NPI core score that combines agitation/aggression and psychosis domain scores. The Treatment Emergent Symptom Scale (TESS) is used to assess somatic side effects. Other exploratory analyses examine the associations between improvement on lithium and indices shown to be associated with response to lithium in bipolar disorder: serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, a SNP in intron 1 of the ACCN1 gene, and variation at the 7q11.2 gene locus. If lithium demonstrates efficacy in this Phase II pilot trial, a Phase III study will be developed to establish its clinical utility in these patients. Trial registration: Identifier NCT02129348.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-39
Number of pages7
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Aggression
  • Aging
  • Agitation
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Lithium
  • Psychosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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