Too Many Medicines


Anchor lead: How often is someone with dementia overmedicated? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Polypharmacy refers to someone taking a multitude of medicines, with a recent study demonstrating that in people with dementia, polypharmacy with drugs that affect the brain occurs in 14%. Constantine Lyketsos, an Alzheimer’s disease expert at Johns Hopkins, says that’s concerning.

Lyketsos: As a doctor taking care of people with dementia I spend more time taking them off medicines than putting them on medicine. Medicines are generally not good for people with dementia especially an accumulation of medicines. They have vulnerable brains. And medicines additively impact the brain in unpredictable ways. Make it more likely that patients will fall. You know the total number of medicines that you’re on, if you have dementia, is a direct predictor of how likely you are to fall and break a hip.  :29

Lyketsos says use of medicines in people with dementia is often attempted to control behavioral symptoms, and that does not usually meet with success. He recommends beginning with a behavioral approach instead. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.