Routine Dementia Treatment Can Prompt Damaging Weight Loss: New Study

In a new discovery, scientists found that medication of one major disease could cause another major adverse effect on health.

Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) discovered that routine drugs used for the treatment of dementia can lead to damaging reduction of weight, recommending that clinical experts must confront this issue before prescribing these medicines to older individuals.


Photo Credit: Garrondo

The study was led by an Indian-origin researcher, Meera Sheffrin who is associated with San Francisco VA Medical Center affiliated under UCSF.

For the study, Sheffrin and her team utilized national VA figures ranging from 2007 to 2010 to analyze patients who were 65 years or older, and diagnosed with dementia. Each one of them obtained a new prescription for a cholinesterase inhibitor or some other chronic medication that was novel.

The chief consequence was calculated to be a 10-pound reduction of weight over a period of a year, thereby indicating a certain amount of loss, which would be observable by a clinical expert and conceivably trigger supplementary measures, taking into account the reasons and possible treatments.

The study was conducted on a group of 1,188 patients who were commenced on cholinesterase inhibitors and had matched to another group of 2,189 patients who were given other drugs. After one year, nearly 29.3 percent of 78 percent of those individuals, who were still taking inhibitors, suffered considerable reduction of weight as compared to 22.8 percent of 66 percent of the individuals, who were taking other drugs.

Talking about the outcomes of the research, Sheffrin said that against patients who had similar, but controlled medication the patients who were commenced on a standard medication carried a superior risk of suffering noticeable reduction of weight. To be more particular, the report further informed that one of every 21 patients who were treated with standard dementia drugs suffered no less than 10-pound reduction of weight.

Sheffrin highlighted the research results, saying that it is pertinent to taking care of a patient as unwanted reduction of weight in older persons is connected to several harmful consequences, which involves poorer quality of life, deterioration of functional status, elevated rates of institutionalization and even death.

She added that their study offers extensive proof of cholinesterase inhibitors’ bearing the possibility to cause considerable reduction of weight “in a substantial proportion of older adults with dementia.”

Reduction of weight is a vital issue among individuals suffering from dementia and is connected to elevated rates of death. Records from arbitrary regulated experiments reflect this reduction may be an under-recognized side effect of the cholinesterase inhibitors, albeit proofs are contradictory and not enough.

Additional research is now required to authenticate these discoveries and confront the restrictions of the study, involving finding out if there is a particular subgroup where beginning cholinesterase inhibitors had a greater risk of reducing weight because this research may have been less powered to look for those disparities. The research team added that the model included majorly older male experts as well, thus the generalizability of the discoveries to females is ambiguous.

The report further said that clinical experts “should take into account the risk of weight loss” while measuring the “risks and benefits of prescribing cholinesterase inhibitors” in individuals, suffering from dementia.

It stressed that the clinical experts should screen for reduction of weight if these drugs are prescribed anyway and take into consideration of not continuing the cholinesterase inhibitors any further if noticeable reduction of weight takes place.

The main drug for treating dementia is cholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine), but they are only marginally advantageous for majority of the patients and in return may have serious adverse effects like gastrointestinal symptoms.

The study appeared online in the August issue of the “Journal of the American Geriatrics Society”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that until now 47.5 million people have been diagnosed with dementia around the world with 7.7 million new cases coming every year. Alzheimer’s disease is the most ordinary reason for dementia and donates to 60 percent to 70 percent of the cases.


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