A stunning new report was just published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), revealing an incredible overusage of medications that are basically useless in nursing home residents with advanced dementia.
The study looked at a sample of 5,406 nursing home residents and reviewed the various medications they were taking. Specifically, the study looked at medications that were deemed to be “never appropriate” in this patient population including various “Alzheimer’s drugs” as well as drugs designed to lower cholesterol, and several others. The report demonstrated that 53.9% of the patients were receiving at least one drug that fell into this category, meaning that they were receiving a medication that is basically useless in this population.
Adverse effects of the so-called “Alzheimer’s drugs” include fainting, cardiac rhythm disturbances, urinary retention, and hip fractures, while adverse effects from statin cholesterol-lowering drugs in the elderly include muscle injury, memory loss, confusion, diabetes, and elevated blood sugar.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Jennifer Tjia, stated:
Despite standards of care that call for minimizing interventions that are unnecessary or provide little benefit in order to focus on interventions that optimize quality of life, polypharmacy (using more than one medication) remains common in this population.
Further, in the conclusion of the report, the authors state:
Our findings have important implications because the use of prescription medications in patients with advanced illness presents a burden to the health care system and to patients. At an economic level, the use of questionably beneficial medications accounts for a significant proportion of the average resident’s annual medication expenditure.
Incredibly, more than 35% of the drug costs in these nursing home patients, amounting to $816 per resident per quarter, was attributed to these unnecessary medications.