Changes in the Use of Long-Term Medications Following Incident Dementia Diagnosis

Timothy S. Anderson*, John Z. Ayanian, Vilsa E. Curto, Eran Politzer, Jeffrey Souza, Alan M. Zaslavsky, Bruce E. Landon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Importance: Dementia is a life-altering diagnosis that may affect medication safety and goals for chronic disease management. Objective: To examine changes in medication use following an incident dementia diagnosis among community-dwelling older adults. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this cohort study of adults aged 67 years or older enrolled in traditional Medicare and Medicare Part D, patients with incident dementia diagnosed between January 2012 and December 2018 were matched to control patients based on demographics, geographic location, and baseline medication count. The index date was defined as the date of first dementia diagnosis or, for controls, the date of the closest office visit. Data were analyzed from August 2021 to June 2023. Exposure: Incident dementia diagnosis. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcomes were overall medication counts and use of cardiometabolic, central nervous system (CNS)-active, and anticholinergic medications. A comparative time-series analysis was conducted to examine quarterly changes in medication use in the year before through the year following the index date. Results: The study included 266675 adults with incident dementia and 266675 control adults; in both groups, 65.1% were aged 80 years or older (mean [SD] age, 82.2 [7.1] years) and 67.8% were female. At baseline, patients with incident dementia were more likely than controls to use CNS-active medications (54.32% vs 48.39%) and anticholinergic medications (17.79% vs 15.96%) and less likely to use most cardiometabolic medications (eg, diabetes medications, 31.19% vs 36.45%). Immediately following the index date, the cohort with dementia had a greater increase in mean number of medications used (0.41 vs -0.06; difference, 0.46 [95% CI, 0.27-0.66]) and in the proportion of patients using CNS-active medications (absolute change, 3.44% vs 0.79%; difference, 2.65% [95% CI, 0.85%-4.45%]) owing to an increased use of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and antiepileptics. The cohort with dementia also had a modestly greater decline in use of anticholinergic medications (quarterly change in use, -0.53% vs -0.21%; difference, -0.32% [95% CI, -0.55% to -0.08%]) and most cardiometabolic medications (eg, quarterly change in antihypertensive use: -0.84% vs -0.40%; difference, -0.44% [95% CI, -0.64% to -0.25%]). One year after diagnosis, 75.2% of the cohort with dementia were using 5 or more medications (2.8% increase). Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study of Medicare Part D beneficiaries, following an incident dementia diagnosis, patients were more likely to initiate CNS-active medications and modestly more likely to discontinue cardiometabolic and anticholinergic medications compared with the control group. These findings suggest missed opportunities to reduce burdensome polypharmacy by deprescribing long-term medications with high safety risks or limited likelihood of benefit or that may be associated with impaired cognition..

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1098-1108
Number of pages11
JournalJAMA Internal Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of 'Changes in the Use of Long-Term Medications Following Incident Dementia Diagnosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this