Women's College Research Institute

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Older adults with dementia are overprescribed conflicting drugs

June 2016

Many seniors are taking two conflicting types of drugsMany seniors are taking two conflicting types of drugs: one to improve mental function and one that worsens it, according to a recent study led by Christina Reppas-Rindlisbacher, a University of Toronto medical student conducting research at WCRI.

Too many seniors are prescribed both cholinesterase inhibitors for dementia and anticholinergic drugs, the team at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found. Dr. Paula Rochon, vice-president of research at Women’s College Hospital, supervised the study. Anticholinergics treat conditions such as depression, incontinence and sleep disorders. But they can have side effects including confusion and memory loss. “The cognitive benefits gained from one drug may be undone by the other,” Rochon says.

The risk of drug conflict is especially high for those seeing multiple doctors or living in long-term care. The study found 61 per cent of long-term care residents were taking both types of drugs. Among those living at home, 37 per cent were prescribed both.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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