There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). The objectives of this study were to explore the tolerability of memantine treatment in FTLD and to monitor for possible effects on behavior, cognition and function. 43 individuals who met clinical criteria for FTLD (21 with frontotemporal dementia [FTD], 13 with semantic dementia [SD] and 9 with progressive nonfluent aphasia [PA]) received 26 weeks of open label treatment with memantine at a target dose of 20 mg daily. Concurrent treatment with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors was prohibited. Cognitive and functional outcome measures included the MMSE, ADAS-cog, CDR-sum of boxes, NPI, Frontal Behavior Inventory (FBI), Executive Interview (EXIT25), Texas Functional Living Scale (TFLS), Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) and UPDRS-motor scale. Most subjects were able to tolerate the target dose of memantine. A transient improvement was observed on the total NPI score primarily in the FTD group. Variable declines were observed on the ADAS-cog, EXIT25, FBI, NPI, TFLS and UPDRS scores. The FTD and SD groups declined on most of the cognitive and behavioral outcome measures, but remained stable on the UPDRS, whereas the PA group remained relatively stable on the ADAS-cog, NPI and TFLS, but declined on the UPDRS. Memantine was well tolerated in these subjects. Future placebo-controlled trials of memantine in FTLD are warranted and may have greater power to detect behavioral and cognitive effects if focused on the FTD and SD clinical syndromes.
Keywords: Frontotemporal dementia, semantic dementia, progressive nonfluent aphasia, memantine, open-label treatment study