Overuse of dementia medications

Dementia is the loss of mental ability and/or behavioral abilities that is severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Some functions that can be affected include memory, problem solving, and the ability to pay attention. Dementia is not a specific disease, but describes a variety of symptoms that can be associated with a loss of memory or thinking skills.

Dementia is more common as people grow older. As many as 50% of all people who are 85 years old or older may have some form of dementia. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. As many as 60% to 80% of all dementia cases are Alzheimer’s. There are many different symptoms of dementia, but some common symptoms include the following.

  • Problems with short-term memory or thinking skills

  • Trouble keeping track of things, such as a wallet or household items

  • Trouble remembering appointments

  • Difficulty planning and preparing meals

Dementia symptoms may be mild at first and get worse over time. There are many different causes of memory loss, so if you or someone you care for is experiencing symptoms of memory loss or dementia, you should visit a doctor to determine the cause. To learn more about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.

Some medications may provide a brief delay in mental impairment for 3 to 12 months for certain adults with dementia. However, these medications (chEI and memantine) may not benefit all patients. There is also evidence that these drugs may not be beneficial beyond short-term use. These drugs also don’t treat the underlying causes of dementia. However, many people might take these medications for as long as 10 years or more. An AARP study found that some patients who used dementia drugs for 10 years paid nearly $20,000 for these drugs. 90% of this cost was experienced after the treatment wasn’t supported by evidence. In addition to the high cost of being on these medications, people who use these medications long-term may be increasing their risk for experiencing negative health outcomes.