Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) inevitably occur during the course of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) including psychosis, aggression, and depression. The effectiveness of pharmacological treatments for NPS has been limited because of their lack of efficacy, discontinuation due to undesirable adverse events, or poor adherence. In recent consensus guidelines, non-pharmacological treatments for NPS have been prioritized as first-line management strategies. Pharmacological treatments for severe NPS should be administrated as a second-line approach, and have been suggested to be started at a lower dosage followed by titration to a minimum effective dosage and for a limited time period. However, recent studies have shown that some patients receiving pharmacological treatments do not exhibit treatment efficacy in comparison with placebo. The concurrence of several sub-symptoms in NPS makes it difficult to target one symptom exclusively. Therefore, the current review focuses on a strategy for such refractory NPS in patients with AD. Recent randomized controlled trials have shown that the severity of NPS gradually reduces in a time-dependent manner regardless of active treatments. Therefore, clinicians should consider potential causes of NPS sub-symptoms from multifactorial aspects and select alternative treatments (e.g. neuromodulation or relocation into specialized care units) during the long-term disease course.
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