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New medication guidelines put individuals before illness

The issue of unnecessary prescription of medications in older Australians living with dementia is expected to be addressed following the release of new guidelines by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Dementia Australia has endorsed new medication guidelines (Source: Shutterstock)
Dementia Australia has endorsed new medication guidelines (Source: Shutterstock)

The newly approved guidelines aim to assist healthcare professionals to determine when it might be suitable to trial the withdrawal of medications when treating people with dementia.

Centre for Medicine Use and Safety Professor Simon Bell says there is increasing evidence about the value of proactively discontinuing medicines for which the potential benefits no longer outweigh the potential risks.

“The guideline provides clinicians, consumers and carers with new recommendations regarding the withdrawal of cholinesterase or memantine,” he explains.

“In particular, the guideline highlights the important role people with dementia and their carers in deciding whether or not to trial discontinuation.”

Dementia Australia Chief Executive Officer Maree McCabe has stepped out as an “advocate” for the 425,000 Australians and their families impacted by dementia, to share the peak advocacy body’s support of the new initiative.

She says Dementia Australia is “encouraged” by the release of the guidelines that “recognise that the experience of people living with dementia is individual and unique”.

“While there are certainly instances where the prescription of ongoing and multiple medications is beneficial for people living with dementia, this is not always the case,” she says.

“Over time, certain medications can lose their effectiveness and they can hinder quality of life rather than improve it.

“As for any change in treatment and as recommended in the guidelines, the withdrawal of medication should be discussed between the healthcare professional, the individual and their carer to ensure the individual and their carer are informed of the potential harm and benefits of continuing or discontinuing use - good communication is critical.

“These guidelines put individuals’ values, preferences and experiences ahead of their illness.

“What’s important now is that these guidelines are read and considered by all clinicians.”

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