Effectiveness of Pharmacological Interventions for Symptoms of Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia: A Systematic Review

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BACKGROUND: Clinical guidance on the symptomatic treatment of behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) is limited. OBJECTIVE: To provide a systematic review of pharmacological interventions for symptomatic treatment of bvFTD, based on the International bvFTD Criteria Consortium clinical diagnostic criteria: apathy, disinhibition, lack of empathy or sympathy, hyperorality, stereotypical behavior, and executive dysfunction. METHODS: We systematically searched the PubMed, Embase, and PsycINFO databases for reports on pharmacological interventions for individuals with bvFTD, published between 1970 and 2018, using key indicators and relevant terms. Studies were included if the efficacy of the intervention in alleviating bvFTD symptoms was provided as an outcome. Due to the high prevalence of depressive symptoms in individuals with bvFTD, we also evaluated the effect of the interventions on depression. RESULTS: We included 23 studies-11 randomized controlled trials, eight open-label studies, one proof-of-concept study, and three case series-reporting on a total of 573 individuals. Of the 23 studies, 16 used pharmacological interventions that improved bvFTD symptoms. Based on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, trazodone had the greatest significant reductive effect on the symptoms of bvFTD. Overall, citalopram, rivastigmine, paroxetine, and trazodone all reduced multiple symptoms, including disinhibition, hyperorality, and depression. CONCLUSIONS: This review provides an overview of the pharmacological interventions that can be used to treat the main bvFTD symptoms as well as a guideline for managing bvFTD. More research is needed to investigate the efficacy of pharmacological interventions for bvFTD through use of a validated outcome and a focus on the specific behavioral problems associated with bvFTD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalCognitive and behavioral neurology : official journal of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • behavioral symptoms
  • drug therapy
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • pharmacological

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