Medications commonly used to treat dementia could result in harmful weight loss, according to UC San Francisco researchers, and clinicians need to account for this risk when prescribing these drugs to older adults, they said. Their study appears online and in the August issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. “This is very relevant to patient care because unintentional weight loss in older adults is associated with many adverse outcomes, including increased rates of institutionalization and mortality, a decline in functional status, and poorer quality of life,” said lead author Meera Sheffrin, MD, geriatrics fellow in the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco VA Medical Center. “Our study provides evidence in a large, real-world population that cholinesterase inhibitors may contribute to clinically significant weight loss in a substantial proportion of older adults with dementia.” Weight loss also is a significant problem in dementia patients and linked to increased mortality. Data from randomized controlled trials suggests this weight loss may be an under-recognized side effect of cholinesterase inhibitors, but evidence is limited and conflicting.
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