Use of pain medicine differs between people with and without Alzheimer’s

Approximately one third of people with Alzheimer’s disease use prescription medicines for pain after their diagnosis, reports a recent study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland. The use of analgesics was as common among people with Alzheimer’s disease as it was among those of the same age without the disease, but there were significant differences in the types of medicines used. The results were published in European Journal of Pain.

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The researchers found out that 35% of those with Alzheimer’s disease and 34% of those without used a prescription analgesic in the first six months after the disease diagnosis. Paracetamol was the most common medicine in both groups, but it was significantly more frequently used by people with Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s disease also used less anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, and mild opioids for their pain. During a six-year follow-up, the use of paracetamol and opioids increased significantly, while the use of anti-inflammatory drugs became less common.

Pain is a common symptom among older adults, but its treatment with medicines demands careful weighing of benefits and risks. According to this study, people with Alzheimer’s disease are commonly treated with paracetamol, which is the preferred first-line analgesic for older people. The treatment of pain among older adults and people with cognitive disorders requires regular assessment of pain and the benefits and risks of used analgesics.

The study is part of the MEDALZ cohort, which included 67,215 people with Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed during 2005-2011, along with people of the same age, gender and region of residence without the disease. Data for the study was derived from Finnish nationwide registers.

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One thought on “Use of pain medicine differs between people with and without Alzheimer’s

  1. How can people take analgesics in the first six months after they have had a disease diagnosed, if they haven’t had it diagnosed – something doesn’t make sense in the description of the study – which may be attributable to it being a translation from Finnish? Also, its not clear whether there’s a change in amount of opioids used by Alzheimers patients.

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