A new international study finds that medication use in newly diagnosed dementia patients increases by approximately 11 percent within the first year, and a good portion of these drugs are unnecessary or inappropriate. This includes sleeping tablets, pain relievers, depression medications and acid reflux drugs.
The study, published in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, was led by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia in collaboration with Yale University and the University of Kentucky. The longitudinal study involved nearly 2,500 people.
Dementia affects around 50 million people worldwide. This has significant cost implications for health care systems with recent estimates suggesting that dementia will cost Australia more than $15 billion per year.
“Our study found that following a diagnosis of dementia in older people, medication use increased by 11 per cent in a year and the use of potentially inappropriate medications increased by 17 per cent,” said lead author Dr. Danijela Gnjidic, NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) Dementia Leadership Fellow and senior lecturer from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Charles Perkins Centre at University of Sydney.
“These medications are typically recommended for short term use but are commonly used long term by people with dementia,” said Gnjidic.
“A number of reasons may account for this, including 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.”
She said these findings are a major concern and reveal the importance of weighing the pros and cons of taking potentially unnecessary drugs, as they may lead to risky side effects such as sedation or drowsiness, and even adverse drug events such as falls, fractures and hospitalization.
“Further efforts are clearly needed to support better recognition of potentially inappropriate medications to minimise possible harms and warrants interventions to minimise such prescribing,” Gnjidic said.
“For Australians living with dementia and their caregivers (who commonly are responsible for managing medications for people with dementia), the key is to communicate closely with general practitioners, pharmacists and other health professionals to make informed decisions and to practice good medicine management techniques to minimise the risk of side effects,” she said.
“De-prescribing unnecessary medications may improve an individual’s quality of life and can reduce unnecessary health care cost.”
Source: University of Sydney