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Evaluating the safety and efficacy of dextromethorphan/quinidine in the treatment of pseudobulbar affect.

  • Schoedel, Kerri A
  • Morrow, Sarah A
  • Sellers, Edward M
Published Article
Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
Dove Medical Press
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
DOI: 10.2147/NDT.S30713
PMID: 25061302


Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a common manifestation of brain pathology associated with many neurological diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and traumatic brain injury. PBA is defined by involuntary and uncontrollable expressed emotion that is exaggerated and inappropriate, and also incongruent with the underlying emotional state. Dextromethorphan/quinidine (DM/Q) is a combination product indicated for the treatment of PBA. The quinidine component of DM/Q inhibits the cytochrome P450 2D6-mediated metabolic conversion of dextromethorphan to its active metabolite dextrorphan, thereby increasing dextromethorphan systemic bioavailability and driving the pharmacology toward that of the parent drug and away from adverse effects of the dextrorphan metabolite. Three published efficacy and safety studies support the use of DM/Q in the treatment of PBA; significant effects were seen on the primary end point, the Center for Neurologic Study-Lability Scale, as well as secondary efficacy end points and quality of life. While concentration-effect relationships appear relatively weak for efficacy parameters, concentrations of DM/Q may have an impact on safety. Some special safety concerns exist with DM/Q, primarily because of the drug interaction and QT prolongation potential of the quinidine component. However, because concentrations of dextrorphan (which is responsible for many of the parent drug's side effects) and quinidine are lower than those observed in clinical practice with these drugs administered alone, some of the perceived safety issues may not be as relevant with this low dose combination product. However, since patients with PBA have a variety of other medical problems and are on numerous other medications, they may not tolerate DM/Q adverse effects, or may be at risk for drug interactions. Some caution is warranted when initiating DM/Q treatment, particularly in patients with underlying risk factors for torsade de pointes and in those receiving medications that may interact with DM/Q.

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