Reports From the Field: Brain disease patients often have psychiatric symptoms

Potentially treatable psychiatric symptoms are common in patients with Huntington’s disease or other degenerative brain diseases, a study at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins has shown.1

Up to 80% of patients with degenerative brain disease suffer from depression, impaired thinking, and changes in personality, the study found.

"The high rate of psychiatric disorders in these patients suggest that many, if not most, can benefit from treatment, even if the course of the brain disease itself cannot be reversed. Many symptoms can be eased and the quality of life for these patients greatly enhanced, says Russell L. Margolis, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Hopkins and director of the laboratory of genetic neurobiology.

The report, in the August issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that 77% of patients with cerebellar disease and 81% of Huntington’s disease patients had psychiatric disorders compared with 42% of control subjects.

"We’re really excited about what our findings mean for patients with cerebellar disease since many of their psychiatric problems can be managed with a combination or education, medication, and psychotherapy, Margolis adds.


1. Leroi I, O’Hearn E, Lyketsos CG, et al. Psychopathology in patients with degenerative cerebellar diseases: A comparison to Huntington’s disease. Am J Psychiatry 2002; 159(8):1,306-1,314.

Seniors skipping medication because of cost

A survey of senior citizens in eight states found that nearly one-fourth of respondents skip doses of medicine or fail to fill prescriptions because of cost.

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund also showed that even in states with the highest rates of prescription drug coverage, roughly one in five seniors had no drug coverage.

"Medicare beneficiaries are already spending over one-fifth of their income on health care. For the sickest among them, the specter of wiping out retirement savings on rising prescription drug costs is truly frightening," says Karen Davis, PhD, president of The Commonwealth Fund. The survey was of 10,927 Medicare beneficiaries in California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.