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2.  Use of health and social care services in a cohort of Italian dementia patients 
Functional Neurology  2014;28(4):265-273.
Summary
The aim of this study, conducted in the Region of Lazio, Italy, in 2008–2010, was to describe the use, over a one-year period, of health and social care services in a cohort of 712 patients with a diagnosis of dementia. These patients had never previously used such services.
We evaluated the association between the patients’ sociodemographic and clinical characteristics and their use of services. Sociodemographic and clinical data were collected at baseline using validated instruments, while the use of services was investigated at the end of the one-year follow-up through a structured (questionnaire-based) interview with the caregiver.
We found that 11.9% of patients used health or social care services. The most frequent diagnoses were: Alzheimer’s disease (72.1%), mixed dementia (20.5%), and vascular dementia (9.7%). A higher probability of use of services was observed in patients with: more than five years of schooling (OR=1.79; 95%CI:1.08–2.96); one or more comorbidity (OR=4.87; 95%CI:2.05–11.57); severe (OR=4.78; 95%CI:1.75–13.06) or moderate dementia (OR=2.08; 95%CI:0.98–4.40). The low health and social care service use among dementia patients in this study could be explained by a lack of availability of services. Public health authorities should plan adequate networks of services, considering both patients and caregivers’ needs.
PMCID: PMC3951254  PMID: 24598394
cohort study; dementia; health and social care services; healthcare system; memory clinics
3.  Prediagnostic body fat and risk of death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Neurology  2013;80(9):829-838.
Objectives:
The aim of this study was to investigate for the first time the association between body fat and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with an appropriate prospective study design.
Methods:
The EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study included 518,108 individuals recruited from the general population across 10 Western European countries. At recruitment, information on lifestyle was collected and anthropometric characteristics were measured. Cox hazard models were fitted to investigate the associations between anthropometric measures and ALS mortality.
Results:
Two hundred twenty-two ALS deaths (79 men and 143 women) occurred during the follow-up period (mean follow-up = 13 years). There was a statistically significant interaction between categories of body mass index and sex regarding ALS risk (p = 0.009): in men, a significant linear decrease of risk per unit of body mass index was observed (hazard ratio = 0.93, 95% confidence interval 0.86–0.99 per kg/m2); among women, the risk was more than 3-fold increased for underweight compared with normal-weight women. Among women, a significant risk reduction increasing the waist/hip ratio was also evident: women in the top quartile had less than half the risk of ALS compared with those in the bottom quartile (hazard ratio = 0.48, 95% confidence interval 0.25–0.93) with a borderline significant p value for trend across quartiles (p = 0.056).
Conclusion:
Increased prediagnostic body fat is associated with a decreased risk of ALS mortality.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182840689
PMCID: PMC3598455  PMID: 23390184
4.  Rizatriptan in migraineurs with unilateral cranial autonomic symptoms: a double-blind trial 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2012;13(5):407-414.
The objective and background is to confirm in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study the high triptan response rates we had previously reported in an open study in migraine patients with unilateral cranial autonomic symptoms. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study 80 migraineurs with unilateral cranial autonomic symptoms were assigned to receive rizatriptan 10 mg wafer or placebo (ratio 1:1) and treated for a single moderate or severe migraine attack. The primary endpoints were pain freedom at 2 h and total migraine freedom at 2 h. Secondary endpoints included pain relief, no associated symptoms and sustained pain freedom or relief. Significantly more patients reported pain freedom at 2 h after taking rizatriptan (54 %) than after placebo (8 %) (therapeutic gain 46 % [28 %; 64 %]; P < 0.001). Similarly, significantly more patients reported total migraine freedom at 2 h after rizatriptan (51 %) than after placebo (8 %) (therapeutic gain 43 % [26 %; 61 %]; P < 0.001). Rizatriptan was also more effective than placebo on most secondary endpoints. We confirm in a placebo-controlled study our previous data suggesting that the presence of unilateral cranial autonomic symptoms in migraineurs predicts a positive response to triptans, probably owing to intense trigeminal peripheral afferent activation which strongly recruits peripheral neurovascular 5-HT1B/1D receptors. Acute and preventive pharmacological trials in migraine should focus also on this subset of migraine patients.
doi:10.1007/s10194-012-0440-y
PMCID: PMC3381061  PMID: 22460943
Migraine; Cranial autonomic symptoms; Trigemino-autonomic reflex; Treatment; Rizatriptan
5.  How Are the Interests of Incapacitated Research Participants Protected through Legislation? An Italian Study on Legal Agency for Dementia Patients 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11150.
Background
Patients with dementia may have limited capacity to give informed consent to participate in clinical research. One possible way to safeguard the patients' interests in research is the involvement of a proxy in the recruitment process. In Italy, the system of proxy is determined by the courts. In this study we evaluate the timing for appointment of a legal proxy in Italy and identify predictive variables of appointment.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Subjects were recruited among the outpatients seeking medical advice for cognitive complaints at the Centre for Research and Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunctions, University of Milan, “Luigi Sacco” Hospital.
The Centre was participating to the AdCare Study, a no-profit randomised clinical trial coordinated by the Italian National Institute of Health. The requirement that informed consent be given by a legal representative dramatically slowed down the recruitment process in AdCare, which was prematurely interrupted. The Centre for Research and Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunctions collected data on the timing required to appoint the legal representatives. Patients diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers were provided information on the Italian law on legal agency (law 6/2004). At each scheduled check-up the caregiver was asked whether she/he had applied to appoint a legal proxy for the patient and the time interval between the presentation of the law, the registration of the application at the law court chancellery and the sentence of appointment was registered. The study involved 169 demented patients. Seventy-eight patients (46.2%) applied to appoint a legal proxy. These subjects were usually younger, had been suffering from dementia for a longer time, had less than two children and made more use of memantine. The mean interval time between the presentation of the law and the patients' application to the law court chancellery was two months. The mean interval time between the patient's application to the law court chancellery and the sentence of appointment was four months.
Conclusions/Significance
In Italy the requirement that legal representatives be appointed by the courts slows down subjects' participation in research. Other procedures for legal agency of the incapacitated patients may be adopted, taking as examples other EU countries' systems.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011150
PMCID: PMC2886844  PMID: 20585400
6.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review of Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e338.
Background
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to a transitional zone between normal ageing and dementia. Despite the uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI as a clinical entity, clinical trials have been conducted in the attempt to study the role of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) currently approved for symptomatic treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (AD), in preventing progression from MCI to AD. The objective of this review is to assess the effects of ChEIs (donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine) in delaying the conversion from MCI to Alzheimer disease or dementia.
Methods and Findings
The terms “donepezil”, “rivastigmine”, “galantamine”, and “mild cognitive impairment” and their variants, synonyms, and acronyms were used as search terms in four electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, PsycINFO) and three registers: the Cochrane Collaboration Trial Register, Current Controlled Trials, and ClinicalTrials.gov. Published and unpublished studies were included if they were randomized clinical trials published (or described) in English and conducted among persons who had received a diagnosis of MCI and/or abnormal memory function documented by a neuropsychological assessment. A standardized data extraction form was used. The reporting quality was assessed using the Jadad scale. Three published and five unpublished trials met the inclusion criteria (three on donepezil, two on rivastigmine, and three on galantamine). Enrolment criteria differed among the trials, so the study populations were not homogeneous. The duration of the trials ranged from 24 wk to 3 y. No significant differences emerged in the probability of conversion from MCI to AD or dementia between the treated groups and the placebo groups. The rate of conversion ranged from 13% (over 2 y) to 25% (over 3 y) among treated patients, and from 18% (over 2 y) to 28% (over 3 y) among those in the placebo groups. Only for two studies was it possible to derive point estimates of the relative risk of conversion: 0.85 (95% confidence interval 0.64–1.12), and 0.84 (0.57–1.25). Statistically significant differences emerged for three secondary end points. However, when adjusting for multiple comparisons, only one difference remained significant (i.e., the rate of atrophy in the whole brain).
Conclusions
The use of ChEIs in MCI was not associated with any delay in the onset of AD or dementia. Moreover, the safety profile showed that the risks associated with ChEIs are not negligible. The uncertainty regarding MCI as a clinical entity raises the question as to the scientific validity of these trials.
A systematic review of trials of cholinesterase inhibitors for preventing transition of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia, conducted by Roberto Raschetti and colleagues, found no difference between treatment and control groups and concluded that uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI casts doubts on the validity of such trials.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Worldwide, more than 24 million people have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease (AD). The risk of developing AD increases with age—AD is rare in people younger than 65 but about half of people over 85 years old have it. The earliest symptom of AD is usually difficulty in remembering new information. As the disease progresses, patients may become confused and have problems expressing themselves. Their behavior and personality can also change. In advanced AD, patients need help with daily activities like dressing and eating, and eventually lose their ability to recognize relatives and to communicate. There is no cure for AD but a class of drugs called “cholinesterase inhibitors” can sometimes temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms. Three cholinesterase inhibitors—donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine—are currently approved for use in mild-to-moderate AD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts have questioned the efficacy of cholinesterase inhibitors in AD, but other experts and patient support groups have called for these drugs to be given to patients with a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as well as to those with mild AD. People with MCI have memory problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of their age but no other symptoms of dementia. They are thought to have an increased risk of developing AD, but it is not known whether everyone with MCI eventually develops AD, and there is no standardized way to diagnose MCI. Despite these uncertainties, several clinical trials have investigated whether cholinesterase inhibitors prevent progression from MCI to AD. In this study, the researchers have assessed whether the results of these trials provide any evidence that cholinesterase inhibitors can prevent MCI progressing to AD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic review of the medical literature to find trials that had addressed this issue, which met criteria that they had defined clearly in advance of their search. They identified three published and five unpublished randomized controlled trials (studies in which patients randomly receive the test drug or an inactive placebo) that investigated the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the progression of MCI. The researchers obtained the results of six of these trials—four examined the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the conversion of MCI to clinically diagnosed AD or dementia (the primary end point); all six examined the effect of the drugs on several secondary end points (for example, individual aspects of cognitive function). None of the drugs produced a statistically significant difference (a difference that is unlikely to have happened by chance) in the probability of progression from MCI to AD. The only statistically significant secondary end point after adjustment for multiple comparisons (when many outcomes are considered, false positive results can occur unless specific mathematical techniques are used to prevent this problem) was a decrease in the rate of brain shrinkage associated with galantamine treatment. More patients treated with cholinesterase inhibitors dropped out of trials because of adverse effects than patients given placebo. Finally, in the one trial that reported all causes of deaths, one participant who received placebo and six who received galantamine died.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the use of cholinesterase inhibitors is not associated with any delay in the onset of clinically diagnosed AD or dementia in people with MCI. They also show that the use of these drugs has no effect on most surrogate (substitute) indicators of AD but that the risks associated with their use are not negligible. However, because MCI has not yet been clearly defined as a clinical condition that precedes dementia, some (even many) of the patients enrolled into the trials that the researchers assessed may not actually have had MCI. Thus, further clinical trials are needed to clarify whether cholinesterase inhibitors can delay the progression of MCI to dementia, but these additional trials should not be done until the diagnosis of MCI has been standardized.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338.
An essay by Matthews and colleagues, in the October 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, discusses how mild cognitive impairment is currently diagnosed
The US Alzheimer's Association provides information about all aspects of Alzheimer disease, including fact sheets on treatments for Alzheimer disease and on mild cognitive impairment
The UK Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of dementia, including drug treatments and mild cognitive impairment
The UK charity DIPEx provides short video clips of personal experiences of care givers of people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338
PMCID: PMC2082649  PMID: 18044984
7.  High prevalence of extrapyramidal signs and symptoms in a group of Italian dental technicians 
BMC Neurology  2007;7:24.
Background
Occupational and chronic exposure to solvents and metals is considered a possible risk factor for Parkinson's disease and essential tremor. While manufacturing dental prostheses, dental technicians are exposed to numerous chemicals that contain toxins known to affect the central nervous system, such as solvents (which contain n-hexane in particular) and metals (which contain mercury, iron, chromium, cobalt and nickel).
Methods
We performed an epidemiological and clinical study on all 27 dental technicians working in a school for dental technicians. We asked all the technicians to fill in a self-administered questionnaire on extrapyramidal symptoms, and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), a self-administered screening instrument, to detect any psychiatric disorders. Moreover, we invited all 27 dental technicians to undergo a neurological examination and provide a detailed occupational history in our clinic.
Results
Of the 14 subjects who underwent the neurological examination, four had postural tremor and one had a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.
Conclusion
We found a high prevalence of extrapyramidal signs and symptoms in this group of male dental technicians working in a state technical high school in Rome. We believe that this finding may be due to the presence of toxins in the dental technician's work.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-7-24
PMCID: PMC1988798  PMID: 17686154
8.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Drugs Looking for a Disease? 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(4):e140.
Maggini and colleagues examine the evidence on cholinesterase inhibitors for treating dementia. "What seemed a biologically plausible intervention," they say, "has not led to a proven, real improvement in patients' well-being."
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030140
PMCID: PMC1434488  PMID: 16597173

Results 1-8 (8)