Dementia Meds May Lead to Harmful Weight Loss: Study
San Francisco, CA - A class of drugs widely used to treat dementia -- called cholinesterase inhibitors -- could cause harmful weight loss in some patients, a new study suggests.
These medications include Aricept (donepezil), Razadyne (galantamine) and Exelon (rivastigmine).
"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," study lead author Dr. Meera Sheffrin, a geriatrics fellow in the School of Medicine, at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a university news release.
One expert said the findings point out a common problem for Alzheimer's patients.
"Weight loss is a concern, not only for patients but also for their overwhelmed caregivers, who keep struggling with multiple challenges, including providing their loved ones with appropriate foods to maintain weight, and deliver quality of care," said Dr. Giselle Wolf-Klein, director of geriatric education at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
For the study, Sheffrin's team reviewed VA data from 2007 to 2010 on nearly 3,500 people diagnosed with dementia. The investigators assessed weight loss for people taking newly prescribed cholinesterase inhibitors versus weight loss experienced by those taking other types of newly prescribed medications.
Cholinesterase inhibitors are known to have side effects such as gastrointestinal symptoms, the study authors noted in the news release.
After one year of treatment, more than 29 percent of patients taking the dementia drugs had a significant weight loss. Meanwhile, 23 percent of those taking other medications had a significant weight loss in the same timeframe. Significant weight loss was defined as losing at least 10 pounds over 12 months, the researchers said. Continue>
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