The role of piracetam in the treatment of acute and chronic aphasia.
Department of Neurology and School of Logopedics
Rheinisch-Westfalische Hochschule (RWTH)
Pharmacopsychiatry 1999 Mar;32 Suppl 1:38-43
Piracetam has been shown to improve speech in aphasic patients. This paper reviews the evidence for this benefit in aphasic patients with acute stroke and, in conjunction with language treatment, in post-acute and chronic aphasia. Early double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in acute stroke showed improvement in several neurologic parameters including aphasia. Subsequently two randomized double-blind placebo-controlled studies were performed which utilised the Aachen Aphasia Test (AAT), a validated and standardized procedure, to assess language function. Patients received placebo or piracetam 4.8g daily for 12 weeks in one study and for 6 weeks in the other. In both studies patients received concomitant intensive speech therapy; one included patients 6-9 weeks after stroke while in the other the duration of aphasia varied between 4 weeks and 3 years. Compared with placebo there was improvement in both studies on piracetam in all 5 subtests of the AAT and significant overall improvement in aphasia. This indicated that, given in conjunction with language therapy, piracetam improved speech in patients with post-acute and chronic aphasia. In the Piracetam in Acute Stroke Study (PASS), of 927 patients treated within 12 hours of the onset of acute ischemic stroke, 373 were aphasic. Treatment consisted of placebo or an intravenous bolus of 12g piracetam, 12g piracetam daily for 4 weeks and 4.8 g daily for a further 8 weeks. After 12 weeks significantly more patients (approximately 10%, P=0.04) had recovered from aphasia on piracetam than placebo while in 197 patients treated within 7 hours of stroke onset, the difference in favor of piracetam was 16% (P= 0.02). These studies indicate that piracetam improves aphasia in acute stroke and, as an adjuvant to language therapy, in post-acute and chronic aphasia.