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Suspect Polypharmacy

October 14, 2014

As people get older, they begin to lose their ability to remember, think and walk. For many this is a natural part of aging.  But a growing trend of polymedicating is often the cause.

A case study of an older woman found the following:

“A 68 year-old female patient resorted to the Emergency Room for suspected stroke. According to the husband, in the six months prior to admission, she became progressively disorientated and dependent. She had resorted to various appointments from different specialties and was polymedicated (received prescription from multiple doctors). It was impossible to clarify the exact dosage. On neurological examination she presented disturbance in attention and memory, disorientation, constructional apraxia (inability to perform tasks or movements), myoclonus (involuntary jerking of muscles) and gait imbalance. After the suspension of all chronic medication, she showed gradual improvement. By the time of discharge, her neurological examination was completely normal.”

Fortunately for this woman, the ER doctor recognized that her symptoms were drug-related rather than age related. The frightening question comes to mind, “what if he/she hadn’t?”

The authors of the study noted that “in the elderly there is a high risk of inappropriate medication and adverse effects of polypharmacy. Iatrogenic effect (consequences) of drugs as a cause of reversible dementia should be considered.”

Read the Abstract

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