Medication Interaction Mistaken for Alzheimer’s

According to a recent report by CBC News in British Columbia, Canada, up to 1 in 5 cases of Alzheimer’s could be a misdiagnosed instance of drug interactions.  Scientific Adviser for the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, Larry Chambers told the CBC that some prescription medications as well as over-the-counter drugs and supplements can interact with one another causing cognitive problems that mimic dementia.  For example, certain heart medications cannot be taken with omega 3 fish oil, Aspirin or garlic.  And antihistamines, anticholinergics(used to treat asthma, incontinence and sleep problems) and benzodiazepine (used as a sleep aid) can cause dementia symptoms in elderly patients.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology found that autopsies of nearly 1,000 dementia patients revealed that up to 30 per cent of those labelled with Alzheimer’s disease had been misdiagnosed.   More than 100 different drugs can have side effects that resemble Alzheimer’s in some people.  Patients should talk with their doctor before stopping or starting any medication and keep track of any changes in behavior or cognitive function.

The growing problem with polypharmacy (taking five or more prescription drugs) is raising flags across the medical community.  Patients who visit different doctor or fill prescriptions at multiple pharmacies can run into serious complications as a result of drug interactions.  Patients and caregivers should keep precise and current lists of all medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements and discuss any changes in behavior with their doctor.  By filling all prescriptions and purchasing all supplements at a single dispensary, interactions can be avoided.

Seniors and caregivers can use The Oldish Medication Checklist, available at no cost through the website’s Toolkit, to keep track of drugs and share this important information with family and health care professionals.