Psychotropic medication use in Huntington's disease: A retrospective cohort study

Ruben L Andriessen, Mayke Oosterloo, Angelique Hollands, David E J Linden, Bianca T A de Greef, Albert F G Leentjens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Whereas the treatment of motor symptoms in Huntington's disease (HD) receives much attention, less is known about the treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms.

OBJECTIVE: We aim to give an overview of psychotropic drug use in the treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms across disease stages in HD.

METHODS: We conducted a descriptive cross-sectional study of psychotropic drug prescriptions in a large longitudinal database of HD patients, Enroll HD. Across disease stages, the number of prescriptions per medication class, as well as the registered indications for these prescriptions were listed, and compared with that in gene negative participants.

RESULTS: Of the 8967 included HD patients, 80% were using at least one psychotropic drug, compared to 27% of gene negative participants. In HD patients, 51% of all drug prescriptions was for psychotropic drugs. The average number of psychotropic drugs used per patient increased from 1.3 in the premanifest stage to 2.5 in stage 5. With progressing disease stages, the proportion of antidepressant drug prescriptions gradually decreased from 74.1% of all prescriptions to 27.3%, and antipsychotic drug prescriptions increased from 7.0% to 38.7%. In line with this, depression and anxiety as listed indications for prescription decreased with advancing disease stages (from 63.0% to 31.5% and from 30.0% to 15.4% respectively), whereas irritability and psychosis increased (from 3.1% to 28.6% and from 0.9% to 16.0% respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Psychotropic medication is widely prescribed in HD, for various indications. Antidepressant use decreases proportionally and antipsychotic use increases with advancing disease stages, suggesting a relative decrease in prevalence of anxiety and depression over disease stages on one hand, and a relative increase in prevalence of irritability and delusions on the other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-74
Number of pages6
JournalParkinsonism & Related Disorders
Early online date7 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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