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Dementia Drugs Often Prescribed For 13 Months Or Longer Despite Lack Of Clinical Evidence

A new study by AARP found that dementia drugs are often given to patients for 13 months or longer, even though there’s little evidence the drugs are effective after a year.

Dementia drugs like Aricept and Namenda can help with memory loss and confusion, but it’s temporary — anywhere between three and 12 months — and some patients see no improvement at all.

AARP found 70 percent of elderly dementia patients were prescribed these types of drugs for much longer than is supported by clinical evidence.

Tena Alonzo is with the Beatitudes Campus, a retirement community in Phoenix, and helps educate family and professionals about dementia. She says there are no protocols to stop administering these medications after a year.

"My hope in going forward is how do we create these hard stops because they’re not benefiting the person, because they costs money in the person’s care and because they may give families false hope and that’s three things that’s really unfortunate," said Alonzo

AARP used claims data from 36,000 Medicare Advantage enrollees. The study found some patients took dementia drugs for as long as a decade. 

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KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.