People with dementia diagnosis may use drugs unnecessarily

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Sydney found that drug use increases in newly diagnosed dementia patients, particularly unnecessary or inappropriate drugs.

The team found that following a diagnosis of dementia in older people, medication use increased by 11% in a year and the use of potentially inappropriate medications increased by 17%.

Potentially inappropriate or unnecessary medications included sleeping tablets, pain drugs, depression drugs, and acid reflux drugs (proton pump inhibitors).

These medications are typically recommended for short-term use but are commonly used long-term by people with dementia

The researchers found there are a number of reasons may account for this.

The reasons include inadequate guidelines, lack of time during physician-patient encounters, diminished decision-making capacity, difficulties with comprehension and communication, and difficulties in establishing goals of care.

Currently, the number of people living with dementia around the world is 50 million and in Australia is currently 425,000.

These findings are of major concern and highlight the importance of weighing up the harms and benefits of taking potentially unnecessary medications.

The problems may lead to increased risk of side effects such as sedation or drowsiness, and adverse drug events such as falls, fractures, and hospitalization.

Further efforts are needed to support better recognition of potentially inappropriate medications to minimize possible harms and warrants interventions to minimize such prescribing.

The researchers suggest deprescribing unnecessary medications may improve an individual’s quality of life and can reduce unnecessary healthcare cost.

This longitudinal study of nearly 2,500 people was conducted in collaboration with Yale University and the University of Kentucky.

The lead author is Dr. Danijela Gnjidic at the University of Sydney.

The study is published in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

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Source: Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences