Medications commonly used to treat dementia could result in harmful weight loss, according to University of California, San Francisco researchers, and clinicians need to account for this risk when prescribing these drugs to older adults, they said.

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are prevalent, affecting one in six people over age 80. The main drug treatments, a class of medications called cholinesterase inhibitors (i.e., donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine), are marginally beneficial for most patients and may have serious side effects such as gastrointestinal symptoms.

Weight loss also is a significant problem in dementia patients and linked to increased mortality. Data from randomized controlled trials suggests this weight loss may be an under-recognized side effect of cholinesterase inhibitors, but evidence is limited and conflicting.


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