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Unnecessary pill-popping leads to dementia, finds new study

A new study by University of Sydney has found that excessive use of medication increases dementia, particularly unnecessary or inappropriate medications. Nearly 2,500 people were examined for the study conducted in collaboration with Yale University and University of Kentucky.

The number of people living with dementia around the world is 50 million. In Australia alone, it is currently 425,000, which means dementia costs the country more than $15 billion per year and it is currently the second leading cause of death in Australia.

"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, from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Charles Perkins Centre at University of Sydney.

The researchers listed inappropriate or unnecessary medications such as 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 for long term by people with dementia," she said.

Among the reasons for this 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.

"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.Deprescribing unnecessary medications may improve an individual’s quality of life and can reduce unnecessary healthcare cost," said researchers.

The study has been published Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

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