Changes in QTc Interval in the Citalopram for Agitation in Alzheimer's Disease (CitAD) Randomized Trial

Drye, Lea T.; Spragg, David; Devanand, Devangere P.; Frangakis, Constantine; Marano, Christopher; Meinert, Curtis L.; Mintzer, Jacobo E.; Munro, Cynthia A.; Pelton, Gregory; Pollock, Bruce G.; Porsteinsson, Anton P.; Rabins, Peter V.; Rosenberg, Paul B.; Schneider, Lon S.; Shade, David M.; Weintraub, Daniel; Yesavage, Jerome; Lyketsos, Constantine G.; CitAD Research Group


A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety communication in August 2011 warned that citalopram was associated with a dose dependent risk of QT prolongation and recommended dose restriction in patients over the age of 60 but did not provide data for this age group.


CitAD was a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial for agitation in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Participants were assigned to citalopram (target dose of 30 mg/day) or placebo in a 1∶1 ratio. 186 people, 181 of whom were over the age of 60, having probable AD with clinically significant agitation were recruited from September 2009 to January 2013. After the FDA safety communication about citalopram, ECG was added to the required study procedures before enrollment and repeated at week 3 to monitor change in QTc interval. Forty-eight participants were enrolled after enhanced monitoring began.


Citalopram treatment was associated with a larger increase in QTc interval than placebo (difference in week 3 QTc adjusting for baseline QTc: 18.1 ms [95% CI: 6.1, 30.1]; p = 0.004). More participants in the citalopram group had an increase ≥30 ms from baseline to week 3 (7 in citalopram versus 1 in placebo; Fisher's exact p = 0.046), but only slightly more in the citalopram group met a gender-specific threshold for prolonged QTc (450 ms for males; 470 ms for females) at any point during follow-up (3 in citalopram versus 1 in placebo, Fisher's exact p = 0.611). One of the citalopram participants who developed prolonged QTc also displayed ventricular bigeminy. No participants in either group had a cardiovascular-related death.


Citalopram at 30 mg/day was associated with improvement in agitation in patients with AD but was also associated with QT prolongation.


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October 13, 2016