A new study has found that unnecessary use of medication increases in newly diagnosed dementia cases.
Painkillers, acid reflux medicine, sleeping pills and anti-depression drugs are the main offenders.
There are around 50 million people living with dementia around the world, 425,000 of whom live in Australia. It is the second leading cause of death in Australia and recent estimates show that dementia costs the healthcare system around $15 billion a year.
The longitudinal study of 2500 people led by the University of Sydney in collaboration with Yale University and the University of Kentucky was published in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences last week.
“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.
“These medications are typically recommended for short-term use but are commonly used long term by people with dementia,” she said.
“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.
“These findings are of major concern and highlight the importance of weighing up the harms and benefits of taking potentially unnecessary medications as they may lead to increased risk of side effects such as sedation or drowsiness, and adverse drug events such as falls, fractures and hospitalisation.
“Further efforts are clearly needed to support better recognition of potentially inappropriate medications to minimise possible harms and [this] warrants interventions to minimise such prescribing.
“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 practise good medicine management techniques to minimise the risk of side effects.
“De-prescribing unnecessary medications may improve an individual’s quality of life and can reduce unnecessary healthcare costs.”
Read more at Science Daily
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