Memantine Reduces Symptoms of Hair Pulling, Skin Picking

60.5 percent of participants in memantine group were much or very much improved compared with 8.3 percent in placebo group
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

FRIDAY, March 31, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with the glutamate modulator, memantine, a drug commonly used to treat Alzheimer disease, results in a significant reduction in hair-pulling and skin-picking symptoms, according to a study published online Feb. 22 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Jon E. Grant, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Chicago, and colleagues enrolled 100 adults with trichotillomania or skin-picking disorder in a double-blind trial of 10 to 20 mg/day of memantine or placebo for eight weeks. Measures of pulling and picking severity were assessed. Treatment-related change on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Trichotillomania Symptom Severity Scale (including skin picking) was the prespecified primary outcome measure.

The researchers found that memantine treatment was associated with a significant improvement in scores on the NIMH scale, Sheehan Disability Scale, and Clinical Global Impressions severity scale. Overall, 60.5 and 8.3 percent of participants in the memantine and placebo groups, respectively, were much or very much improved at the study end point, with a number needed to treat of 1.9. There was no significant difference observed between the treatment arms in adverse events.

"The results did show that the medication helped more than the placebo, for which I was very pleased, but it tells me that there's still a lot more to do," Grant said in a statement. "Even though the results were promising, it was still a very small minority of people in terms of complete remission of symptoms."

One author disclosed ties to the pharmaceutical industry; two authors disclosed ties to the publishing industry.

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