Use of certain medications indicated for the treatment of dementia could lead to harmful weight loss in older adults, researchers are reporting. The study appears in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Meera Sheffrin, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort study of 6,504 patients aged ≥65 with a diagnosis of dementia who received a new prescription for a cholinesterase inhibitor or other new chronic medication using National Veterans Affairs data. The primary outcome was time to 10lb weight loss over 12 months to assess if initiation of cholinesterase inhibitors was associated with significant weight loss in a real-world clinical setting.

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At 12 months, 78% of patients prescribed cholinesterase inhibitors were continuing to take the drugs vs. 66% for other medications. Approximately 29.3% of patients taking cholinesterase inhibitors experienced significant weight loss compared to 22.8% of non-users. The authors concluded that more research is needed to confirm these findings, address study limitations, and investigate if there are specific subgroups that may have a higher risk of weight loss.

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