Clinicians now have a new tool to help reduce the prescribing of unnecessary medications in older people living with dementia.

The developers of the new National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) approved guideline, released on Monday, say it will help doctors and healthcare professionals navigate the complex process of optimising medication use in people with dementia.

Last year there was an estimated 413,000 Australians living with dementia, many of whom often have multiple health conditions that can lead to prescribing of multiple medications.

But experts warn that over time, these medications can cause harm.

This guideline, developed by the University of Sydney, in conjunction with Canada’s Bruyère Research Institute, contains seven recommendations that reflect current evidence about when and how to trial withdrawal of two commonly prescribed medications.

“Clinical guidelines can help general practitioners and other healthcare professionals to make informed decisions,” explained guideline developer and NHMRC-ARC dementia research development fellow, Dr Emily Reeve.

“The availability of these de-prescribing guidelines will provide a resource to help them, in conjunction with people with dementia and their family, decide when it is suitable for these medications to be withdrawn.”

The Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine endorsed the guideline and said it supports the principles of appropriate use of medications in older people.

Last week Australian Ageing Agenda reported on the findings of a new study that showed negative clinical outcomes were rarely reported in five clinical areas examined, with the exception of polypharmacy. Polypharmacy was defined as residents receiving nine or more medications.

Access the guidelines here.

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